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Purdue faculty complain of poor working conditions in building

"We have had final exams disrupted because roaches are wandering down the rows of seats in the classroom."

Posted: Sep 16, 2019 6:50 AM
Updated: Sep 16, 2019 1:06 PM

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. (WLFI) — The Purdue English Department is fed up with its working conditions. Faculty members say something needs to be done before more of their colleagues get sick.

Their home, Heavilon Hall, was built in the 1950s, and the faculty say you sure can tell.

"We can't control the HVAC system, the roaches the size of kittens are distressing, occasional flooding when the plumbing goes haywire, mold, fumes," listed English Department Head Dorsey Armstrong. "We have had final exams disrupted because roaches are wandering down the rows of seats in the classroom."

"People could not keep envelopes in their offices because you would go get an envelope to use and it had self-sealed because of the humidity," said Professor John Duvall.

The faculty say it almost got fixed. The building has been up for renovation three times since 2002, according to Armstrong.

"Most recently, the plans for a new Heavilon Hall reached the 90-percent completion stage, and they were beautiful," said Armstrong.

But the department says the proposed $20 million project was taken off the list for renovation in the fall of 2017, and it's been sitting as a 'ghost town' since.

"Until yesterday, the second floor of our building was full of desks and old filing cabinets," said Armstrong. "Someone got wind of the fact that WLFI was coming and suddenly yesterday morning there was a flurry of activity."

Faculty said there are a lot of issues, but the biggest problem is the mold.

"The windows in this building don't open," said Armstrong. "They're all screwed shut."

"We all know mold doesn't like fresh air. If we could only open our windows and get some fresh air in here, it probably would help," said Duvall. "What happened when West Lafayette discovered they had a mold problem in their city hall? They got everybody out of the building, they tore it down, and they relocated City Hall."

Purdue President Mitch Daniels says Purdue has made a big effort to preserve what they have.

"We are spending more money on 'R&R,' repair and rehabilitation, than Purdue ever has," said Daniels. "It's up 56-percent in the last several years."

However, Daniels said Purdue has to have priorities in growing departments.

"[The English Department] is not an area that is growing. Now we've spent a lot of money, $2 million, last year in Heavilon Hall for programs that are growing. That's in the Polytechnic Institute," said Daniels. "Heavilon Hall will be replaced at some point."

Until then, the department is putting together a committee to present all the issues to Purdue.

"After they receive this report, no administrator will have plausible deniability about the problems that exist in Heavilon Hall," said Duvall.

News 18 filed a request for a copy of the most recent building inspection. It has been received, but has not been provided.

Since taping the story, the department said an inspection has been done of the building. In addition to 15 classrooms already closed in 2017 due to the room being too small, another room was lost this week. The room was closed due to fungal growth, according to email records from Radiological and Environmental Management.

Sunday, a woman saw a promotion for this story on News 18 and sent in a Report-It. She said she had to go on long-term disability from working in Heavilon Hall. She claims it caused cognitive, neurological, and physical problems for her.

The professors we spoke with say many current and past employees have lasting health problems from working in the building.

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