Not so good vibrations

The construction going on at the College of Business Administration, the first in 30 years, is causing a lot of vibration, in more ways than one.

The $10.2 million project, which broke ground on Dec. 8, will add approximately 42,000 square feet to Ferguson Hall. Yet a groundbreaking ceremony does not necessarily mark when actual construction starts, as Melissa Jarrell, a Ph.D. student in the department of criminology, found out.

Last semester, Jarrell, who is also an adjunct professor, taught a criminology class in the business building. The construction at Ferguson Hall, which may be completed as early as December, became a major disruption during her Wednesday class the week before final exams, Jarrell said.

“There was no way I could teach because the walls were shaking,” Jarrell said. “(The students) couldn’t hear me; I had to scream.”

Jarrell did eventually change rooms, although it took about 45 minutes out of her class to do so and prompted half of her students to leave, she said.

“The students could have been better prepared for the final. I wasn’t able to get everything in,” Jarrell said. “I am shocked that they would condone construction the week before finals.”

Following the disruptions, Jarrell visited the dean’s office at COBA and the secretary told her that the disruptions must be tolerated because of an upcoming groundbreaking ceremony, she said.

Richard Meyer, associate dean of COBA, said the room was by a large cement wall that had to be altered before anything else.

“We shouldn’t have the heavy hammering that we did before,” Meyer said.

Although Meyer emphasized the noise should no longer be a problem, back in December, Jarrell was looking for answers.

Not satisfied with the answer she received from the dean’s secretary, she thought of contacting Facilities, Planning and Construction but became frustrated when she could not find any contact information for them on their Web site.

“I just feel like I’ve been railroaded more than anything,” Jarrell said. “I’m surprised no one else really cared about this. It made me feel very sad.”

After not being able to find a satisfactory response to her frustrations, Jarrell sent a letter to The Oracle expressing her concerns.

“Quite frankly, I don’t care what the administration at USF decides to build. Just do not let it interfere with the learning process,” Jarrell wrote. “We need to get our priorities straight.”

Getting things straight is exactly what Ron Hanke, acting director of Facilities, Planning and Construction, has in mind.

“There certainly could’ve been some better communication about this, no question about it,” Hanke said. “We’re going to try to improve that.”

Hanke added that Jarrell may not have been notified since she does not actually belong to the College of Business.

“I think we need to look at our processes so we can understand who uses the classrooms,” Hanke said. “That’s something we are definitely going to be aware of in the future.”

As for the timing of the construction, Hanke said they did schedule the work so that it would not be going on during exams. He added that other factors are also in effect that prevented postponing the construction until after exams were completed.

“When we start a project, we have certain deadlines to meet,” Hanke said. “Funding is always part of the equation as to when projects need to be started and completed.”

Hanke said that although most construction typically occurs between 7 a.m. and 4 p.m., off-hour construction typically happens when it is known there will be a major disruption.

“The key is to be cognizant of when final exams are occurring and what activities would disrupt the teaching and exams,” Hanke said.

Hanke also had something to say about Jarrell’s inability to find contact information for his department.

“We’re working on getting that information on our Web site,” Hanke said. “But we’re in the phonebook.”

The groundbreaking for the project was held amid a crowd of faculty, staff and special guests, which included Louise Ferguson, the wife of the building’s namesake, Chester H. Ferguson.

In addition to Mrs. Ferguson, other special guests included donors who, because of the policy of funding the building entirely with privately sourced funds, are actually part owners of the new building. Each special guest, including Stella Ferguson Phayer, daughter of Louise and Chester Ferguson, who was there representing donors Leacy and Jim Quinn, was given a memento gift, a pen set engraved with shovels and the date of the groundbreaking.

The new building will mainly consist of offices and classrooms for the graduate programs, as well as future executive educational spaces and a dining room for catered events. A major benefit of the new building is a 6,000-square-foot atrium, which will serve as a lobby for students, Meyer said.

“In our building now there is no place for our students to go between classes,” Meyer said. “The only place students have now is in front of the big auditorium, which is open to the elements.”