Faculty forced to flee by burst pipe

Newswire photos by Sydney Sanders | Signs caution all who enter Hinkle Hall to tread carefully. The building was hit by two floods that affected several first- and second-floor offices and displaced members of the math, English and philosophy departments.

The discovery of pooling water on a Hinkle Hall stairwell led to the discovery of a much bigger issue: Coils within the building’s heaters had ruptured, leading to flooding and water damage. The flooding has resulted in the displacement of numerous faculty and staff.

The first stage of flooding occurred in a first-floor math professor’s office. It was discovered that Sunday, Jan. 14, by a theology professor who noticed the pooling water. Because the flooding transpired during the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday weekend, its start time remains undetermined.

A second stage of flooding occurred on the second floor in the hallway by the English department offices on Jan. 16 and was quickly quelled.

All in all, the flooding affected the offices of professors and administrative assistants in the math, English and philosophy departments on the first and second floors. The first-floor faculty lounge was also affected. The College Operations team, based in the offices of the College of Arts and Sciences in Alter Hall, has been tasked with managing the relocation of affected professors.

Hinkle Hall is no stranger to maintenance issues. The building is the oldest on campus and will mark its 100th anniversary in 2019. The coils in the heaters have ruptured before without major damage to offices because the ruptures were discovered quickly. This time, however, the water had ample time to wreak havoc through the extended weekend.

“It could have happened Friday night, for all we know,” said Nannette Moore, the manager of College Operations.

Offices on the first and second floor of the building’s north wing have been largely vacated because of the presence of heated industrial fans and dehumidifiers. Rooms on the second floor have reached temperatures of more than 100 degrees as fans blow hot air upward through studs in the walls to get rid of any possible mold.

First-floor offices in Hinkle Hall will remain unuseable, but the College Operations team hopes to re-open the second-floor offices this week.



“Although the noise and mess have been a hassle, it seems like the work crews are doing a lot to try to dry out the place as quickly as possible,” Frey said.

In addition to Servpro’s work, Moore is pleased with how the various academic departments have worked together to find space for displaced faculty. For example, the biology department has offered up space in its research labs to affected professors. As Moore puts it, the flooding “brought out lots of good things in people.”

In addition, professors and chairs of the affected wings have been relocated to offices of professors on sabbatical or maternity leave as well as offices in Schott Hall. Some professors have elected to utilize home offices or quiet spaces in the McDonald library during the day.

The group study rooms in Alter are currently closed to students to make space available to professors to hold office hours. Others are opting to forego meeting with students for the time being, which has led to frustrations for both students and professors.

“I feel frustrated that I can’t meet with my professor, but I understand. I don’t really meet with my professors anyway,” first-year English major Link Villanueva said.

Some students, on the other hand, were not perturbed by the lack of study rooms.

“I usually use a classroom to study,” first-year philosophy major Aedan Sullivan said. “They’re pretty free (at night). I only use the study rooms during exam week.”

College Operations hopes to move minimally affected professors back to the second floor today. Other second-floor offices should be open by the end of this week. The first-floor rooms that were initially hit with flooding, however, will remain unusable for the foreseeable future. Meanwhile, third-floor offices have remained in operation with little distraction from heat and noise.

Perhaps there is a silver lining to the story — it isn’t exam week, and the carpets of affected offices are being deeply cleaned.

By: Heather Gast ~Staff Writer~