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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Castle to undergo overdue renovation

Published: August 31, 2012
Section: Featured, News

As students return to Brandeis, they will notice a number of improvements around campus: new sidewalks between the Castle and East, and a new entry floor in the Shapiro Admissions Center. More than 23 bathrooms in East Quad were renovated, and new steam pipes were installed in North Quad. Buildings were made more energy efficient, which will reduce costs for Brandeis in the long run, Associate Vice of Communications Bill Burger said.

The most long-needed renovations, however, occurred in the Castle, according to Brandeis. As Brandeis’ oldest building, many feel it is also in the most need of repair. In 2008 during the economic downturn, Brandeis was forced to cut back on maintenance and repairs that it is now just starting to confront. Many of these repairs were meant to fix problems in the Castle, and are just now being addressed.

Burger cites maintenance as an everyday procedure, something you do or “you’re going to pay later.” For the Castle Quad, Brandeisians say, payment is more than due.

During the 2008 downturn, physical maintenance was hard-hit. Many projects were delayed indefinitely, even if they were then necessary. The Castle was shortlisted as a site in much need of repairs, but the university lacked the funds to do so.

The Castle is to finally undergo renovation before weather turns cold at Brandeis. According to Burger, the university is to replace the heating system in the Castle and install a set of new, high-efficiency gas-fired boilers. “The old steam heat exchange equipment has been demolished and removed and the new gas line has been installed,” Burger said. “The new boilers will be in place before the heating season starts.”

Many students feel, however, that further renovations could be made. Alberto Lalo ’14, says they aren’t all infrastructure, either. “Make the hallways a little prettier,” Lalo tells Brandeis administrators. “There are cables and circuit boxes and pipes just kind of hanging out. They could also paint the … place.”

Kiernan Bagge ’12, lived in the Castle in 2009. In April of that year after days of heavy rain, a portion of his ceiling collapsed while he was sitting at his desk. The university reimbursed him for damaged items and repaired the roof, but he feels that the accident was more serious.

“If I was on my bed I would have been injured, and this would have been something beyond mere reimbursement for damaged items,” he recently told The Hoot. He feels that the Castle’s problems cannot be solved by coats of paint.

“Not only was the damage far from recent (the rebar mesh support was rusted to dust flakes), there was also mold damage in other sections of the Castle that required repair and caused inconvenience,” said Bagge ’12. “But this is about health, first and foremost, and Brandeis did not handle this appropriately.”

Heat has been a problem in the Castle a number of times. In late October last year, heat in the Castle went out and a number of students were left out in the cold. Students with broken windows, a common occurrence in Brandeis’ first and oldest building, had rooms that at night reached freezing. Castle Quad Senator Kelly Davis sent an email to residents that day, bringing the issue to their attention, informing them that the heat should be on by the end of that week.

This year’s renovations, students hope, will be followed by others. Broken windows, leaky roofs and dilapidated toilets are common complaints from students living in Schwartz and Usen Castle. But they are glad of the repairs they are getting.

“It’s a good thing they are replacing the heating system, because they were quite old and outdated,” said Lalo.  “I mean, I was sleeping with a furnace and hot pipes next to my head, which I don’t think is a good idea.”

Bagge says it is just the beginning. “Heating isn’t enough. This is not about making it 100 percent comfortable for students; it’s about making it 100 percent safe.”