Editor’s Note: This story has been updated to include quotes from University Communications and Marketing at Ohio University.
Student Senate began Wednesday with 13 theater division students in the College of Fine Arts speaking out about the conditions of Kantner Hall.
The students all came forward to voice concern and frustration about the fact that Kantner has not been renovated or been well-maintained for years. There have been numerous floods in the basement, as well as a variety of other problems.
“We are striving to increase our enrollment and maintain the high quality of our work, but our facilities are not maintained at the rate Ohio University expects our growth to continue,” Robert Di Donato, a first year MFA candidate, said in a statement.
Just this past week, the building had to be evacuated twice, due to oil burning and smoke throughout the building. However, the fire alarm had not sounded until an hour after smoke was detected.
Gina Boccolucci, a first year MFA props student, said students need to use respirators in the prop shop due to poor air ventilation and the windows not being able to open.
Other students spoke about the black mold that infects a number of areas in the building, poor water draining that results in the basement flooding frequently and as sewage sometimes coming up through the floor after flushing a toilet.
Aside from those concerns, students expressed a general need for more space.
Currently, there are three majors all together in the basement of Kantner Hall, and the building has accessibility issues as well. Students also recounted stories of not being able to stand up fully in their storage room, saying that one student even split their head open on a fire sprinkler.
Ohio University responded to the claims of smoke, fire alarm delay and floods in Kantner Hall.
Athens Fire Department was on the scene within 3 minutes and there was no delay in response, said Brent Mattox, director of safety in Ohio University facilities management and safety, in an email. The Athens Fire Department responded to the burnt oil smell and was told that people were drilling metal in a workshop using oil. Soon after, the alarm activated.
“Occupants should be aware that until sufficient smoke or heat are generated, the detectors will not activate,“ Mattox said in an email. “Odors will normally not set off the detectors.”
Steve Wood, Ohio University chief facilities management officer, said the floods were due to a city sewer line failing in Feb. 2019. After The City of Athens amended the situation, facilities management and safety staff immediately to sanitize the areas where the flooding occurred.
Ohio University plans on making several long-term improvements but also making needed immediate changes to Kantner Hall.
“As we focus plan for several improvements over the long term, we are committed to identifying and implementing immediate improvements as needed to ensure the wellbeing of our students, faculty and staff,“ Jim Sabin, University spokesperson, said in an email.
The students also came to support a senate bill for the Violet Patton Arts and Education Center.
The meeting continued with a presentation from Dr. Katie Hartman, chair of the Reimagining General Education Task Force, and Dr. Cindy Cogswell, director of Strategic Planning and Assessment, on general education reform.
The current general education model has not been changed since 1979 and Ohio University is looking to make updates.
The proposed plan includes additions, such as an intercultural dialogues requirement, which may result in the creation of new classes. The new model will also increase the number of required hours in general education courses to 40 hours.
The plan will be presented in November and be voted on in December. The goal is to begin implementing the new requirements during the Fall semester of 2020.
The meeting concluded with a resolution to appoint an assistant clerk of court and an associate justice to Student Senate. Senate also passed a bill in support of the Violet Patton Arts and Education Center.