Wednesday, May 09, 2007

UMASS Bill More Daunting Than It Looks

The Boston Globe wrote an article detailing all the repair needs at UMASS Amherst, but they titled it as only UMASS. Well, if it's UMASS repair costs we're talking about, why not throw in the other schools? I couldn't put a price tag on the repairs needs at UMASS Dartmouth, Boston and Lowell, but surely they're in the hundreds of millions. At UMASS alone, part of the science and technology building is condemned - literally. Luckily, it was only the commuter area - and the school doesn't really care about them anyway. They added a table and a few chairs in the hall way for 5,000 plus commuting students who attend UMASS Dartmouth.

The auditorium at UMASS Dartmouth has been broken almost the entire year. How does an auditorium break, one asks? Well, I'll tell you: the lighting is, to put it mildly, fucked up. The "House Lights" are fried and pretty much can't be fixed (warning: link temporary, I'll try to remember to fix it when it goes bad). From the University newspaper, the Torch:

The UMass Dartmouth Main Auditorium is host to many events: Theatre Company and 20 Cent Fiction both put on all their theatrical productions, CAB puts on both Mr. and Mrs. UMD and a host of other organizations hold a variety of events throughout the year — it was even the location for a gubernatorial forum before this year’s election. Every single one of these events for the past couple of decades has run under the glow of an inadequate lighting system.

According to an anonymous source from within the UMD auditorium staff, the lighting system
that is currently utilized has been in use since the auditorium’s birth over forty years ago. “The system was designed to last for twenty years, and it’s been in use for forty,” the source claims. “It finally ended up dying in October.”

The system dying means that the lights themselves have no power, and the dimmers for the lights are broken.

In order to compensate for this outdated setup, portable systems have been purchased to power the auditorium. These portable SAT(short for satellite) packs “were originally purchased as a backup” and since have become the primary source of power.

Well, I can be a second source on that. It's broken. Everyone in CAB, 20 Cent and the Theatre Company has known that for a year. The Theatre Company first realized it when they staged Anne Frank in the fall - and had to be content to do the production with the house lights on. Imagine going to a movie where they didn't dim the lights? No one was happy, including the audience.

They got the backups working for Moby Dick, but those aren't a permanent solution. They're already being fried. It's like driving with a spare tire: they don't last very long. They were designed to work at room temperature, but it reaches 120 degrees where they're situated. Not to mention, since they weren't designed for long use, they're not exactly safe - the picture in the Torch is of the fuse actually melting the cords to the backup lights.

The good news is that if the building burned down, we'd get a new one... even if in a few years. Sadly, at the rate things are going, it's not all that unlikely.

The source expressed fear of this situation saying “before this [the cords melting] happened, a circuit breaker should have tripped...but it didn’t.” The only reason the problem was noticed is because “a SAT pack wasn’t working and we didn’t know why.” It’s unknown if the cord melted due to an electrical fire, or if it was just the heat of the energy flowing through it.
The fix? $300,000 and 2-3 months, months were all events would have to be cancelled. Imagine if the school had to tell the gubernatorial candidates during the debate last year, "sorry guys, our lights are broken, we can't do this?" Sadly, that was almost the case. Oh, and speaking of repair costs, did I mention the University is damn near falling apart and each academic building should be replaced within 10-15 years? Just remember, the cost of building a university is billions, but the return on the investment is priceless.


Anonymous said...

As a quick note, the only reason the Theatre Co. (Moby Dick) and 20 Cent fiction (The Who's: Tommy) were able to keep the house lights off is because both organizations rented lights from outside source (through UMD Tech). When renting these lights, both organizations pitched in the extra dollars to ensure there were enough dimmers for to make up for the emergency lighting that is shut off when the house lights are turned off.

Ryan Adams said...

That's redicululous. The school should have paid for that; it's not as if either organization is swimming in dough.

Anonymous said...

On the topic of Umass, is it okay to give the url for the petition to ask Umass to not award an honorary degree to Andy Card?

It would be bad enough if they were inviting him to the undergrad graduation, but this is for the graduate school. The Amherst campus is pretty political, has an active grad student population, and there was a big ruckus a few weeks ago when Card came to speak on campus. The administration is making a mockery of the students' wishes and ruining their day, plus begging for a big disruption, it's ridiculous and so unnecessary.

Ryan Adams said...

I'm glad you did - I didn't know that about Andy Card. I certainly wouldn't want to reward him.

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