East College Reopens Following Asbestos Removal

Nadia Shahab Diaz ’21, Staff Writer

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After a yearlong program to remove asbestos from the building, East College has reopened for the 2019-2020 academic year.

Associate Vice President for Campus Operations Kristen Kostecky explained in an email that the renovations to the building aimed to “abate most of the visible asbestos in the attic and chases that our facilities staff encountered when they maintained the building systems.” However, Kostecky explained that asbestos was discovered in the ductwork late in the project. “Tests were conducted,” Kostecky said, “and while the results showed that the building was safe, out of an abundance of caution, the project was expanded to include removal of the HVAC system and installation of a new one.” Additional changes include fire safety improvements, new windows and an upgraded network system. 

“The scope [of the renovations to be made to East College] was also expanded to include ADA… improvements,” included Kostecky. The outdoor patio and lobby have been raised so that the main entrance to the building is now ADA [Americans with Disabilities Act]-compliant. Professor of Religion Daniel Cozort said, “as a handicapped person, I really [appreciated] having access to the ground floor lobby and being able to enter through the front doors.” 

Because the discovery of asbestos in the ductwork of the building was made just prior to the beginning of the Fall 2018 semester, Kostecky said that “faculty and classrooms had to be relocated and the building closed off. Belongings were stored in their new locations or in one of the campus warehouses.” 

To assist in the relocation, Registrar Mary-Ann Leidigh said she “worked with the departments and other administrative offices on campus to provide a seamless solution,” detailing that “the classes were relocated to spaces in the Historic President’s House and other existing classroom locations on campus,” including the Waidner-Spahr Library, Allison Hall and The Clarke Forum. 

Members of the departments located in East College understood the necessity of the relocation. However, many professors and students alike also found the extended process to be irritating. According to Cozort, while East College was being renovated, the Religion department “was spread across three different buildings, and our Staff Associate was on a different floor in the Library from the faculty who had offices there in former study rooms.” Religion major Katie Martin ’20 found it difficult to have her entire department displaced last year and said that “oftentimes, professors would not want to meet in their offices because of how claustrophobic it was. We would be forced to have private conversations outside of their ‘offices’ in the silent section of the library.” After a while in the basement of Allison, Assistant Professor of Philosophy Jim Sias ended up “feeling pretty disconnected from the rest of the academic community, especially the other departments in the humanities,” he said.  

On Aug. 5, the faculty and staff of East College were sent an email by Director of Projects Steve Bobb informing them that “the East College project [was] nearing completion…” as well as a schedule update for moving back into the building.

Many professors are happy to have their departments back in East College. Associate Professor of English Siobhan Phillips “[looks] forward to students making this building theirs again. English is working with [its] Majors Committee to think about artwork and decorations… And [there is a] nice lounge space and lobby space for students to use.”

Some of the changes made to East College have also brought together some departments. Cozort is happy that the Religion department is “together for the first time ever; all of us now have offices in the same suite. Our lounge has been transformed into the Conway Library, with lots of bookshelves, a table, and chairs for students,” he said. Similarly, a seminar room used by the Philosophy department had been made into two offices, and “what it’s done is [made] it so that all of us philosophers are in the same building, because before… at least one person had been in a different building. It’s nice to have us all together,” said Assistant Professor of Philosophy Jeff Engelhardt. 

Students also welcome East College’s active status again. Since East College was closed down during her first year at Dickinson, Philosophy major Erin Lowe ’22 said that having classes there “makes me feel like we are utilizing more of the space [that] we have on campus, and its central location makes it the perfect place to gather to study or to engage in meaningful conversation.” Martin ’20 is also very happy about East College reopening and she is “grateful that the school got rid of the asbestos, and made the building more handicap accessible… Dickinson did a commendable job in ensuring safety last year,” she said.

According to Kostecky, “the project was competitively bid and awarded to Warfel Construction.  It was a very complex project with a short timeline and it was completed on time for fall 2019 opening.” The overall cost for the East College project was approximately $4.7M.