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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

After forum, Ridgewood concerns remain strong

Published: October 1, 2007
Section: News

After efforts by the Student Union to move loud construction later in the day and the airing of complaints at the Ridgewood forum last week, the Ridgewood petition movement remains active.

The Ridgewood petition calls for construction times to be moved back so as to lesson the sleep disruption for students. Student concern, however, goes beyond sleep disruption. Raffi Marcus 08 of Ziv 130, the Ziv building nearest construction, explained, Its pretty miserable[Ziv has] lost its appeal. He added, when the blasts go offthe room shakes, the floor vibrates, it tremors the whole building. He added, it makes going back to your room an unpleasurable thing. Its an abrasive environment when it shouldnt be.
According to one of the petitions organizers, Ziv 130 resident Chris Lekkas 08, our housing is technically worth less. Its now officially a rip off. He added, [Students] are the ones financing this. Im taking out loans for [Brandeis] and I have to suffer.

In light of these complaints, Student Union President Shreeya Sinha 09 said she would work to have the heaviest construction work moved to later in the day as reported in the Sept. 7 edition of The Hoot. Lekkas said, [Sinha] said there was going be a compromise where loud work would be later[but] there was some miscommunication between the Union and construction. He added, we voiced our concerns [at the Ridgewood forum] and they apologized. Lekkas continued, She is interested in the situation. But she hasnt brought any tangible results yet.

The early Ridgewood construction times are due to the policy of the construction workers union, which defines the regular working day as 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. Work done after 3 p.m. is considered overtime. Sinha explained in an email Brandeis University has a commitment to social justice and because Boston is a Union town, all major construction must be done by labor union workersby changing the time the labor union workers will start work, the construction will continue for longerand will cost the University between $600,000 to $900,000.

Evan Sherman 08, Lekkas suitemate in Ziv 130, responded, we see why the University is doing this to save costs but its at our expense. He added, we dont know how to get around that, we want this building here, but at what cost?

In her email, Sinha said, while the Student Union cannot argue with labor unions in Boston, what we have been stressing is a delay in the louder work until later hours. This message is being conveyed to workers.

Newly elected Village Quad Senator Mike Kerns 09 commented, Shreeya arranged some sort of tentative agreement to push back really loud things to 8 a.m. That was the first accomplishment, however there was a blatant breach two weeks ago one morning in particular. Kerns said, it took a couple days for that to go through to the construction workers.

Justin Sulsky 09, newly elected Ziv Quad Senator, said, [Sinha] has already worked hard with capital projects. In terms of that issue, its important for students to make the distinction between what happened last week and whats happening this week. He continued, as students find an incident of loud construction before 8 a.m. they should record the exact time and nature of the noise violation and contact Deb Elliott [Project Manager of Capital Projects]. Shes really the contact person to go to. Director of Residence Life Rich DeCapua explained that the possibility of relocation to other University housing exists for those students who find living in their current rooms an unbearable prospect.

These concerns were voiced at the Ridgewood forum held Sept. 19. Marcus said, before the forum, I dont think the administration and the construction people knew we had concerns. After the forum, the administration realized that people were forceful. Vice President of Capital Projects, Dan Feldman commented, I think there were good suggestions at the open forum. It was at the forum that solutions such as white noise machines and ear plugs were proposed. According to Feldman, 30 white noise machines have been distributed to date with more on the way.

Sherman explained, [the Department of Residence Life] bought a limited number of white noise machines and ear plugs. Theyre loaning out [the white noise machines] to people whose windows face out to the construction. However, he added, whats an ear plug going to do against dynamite and jack-hammers? Marcus agreed. Its a good gesture, he said, [but] a white noise machine isnt a magic machine.

In addition to the construction noise, students expressed frustration about a lack of communication during housing selection last year. Sherman said, [Residence Life] left us in the dark. They gave us a construction man [doll]. Marcus remarked, that the building would be shaking three or four times a day, I dont think anyone was prepared for that. You could live off campus for less. If people wouldve knownthe scope [of the construction], they wouldve adjusted their whole thinking accordingly.

Sulsky responded, I feel that Res Life presented all of the information known to them at the time. They didnt mention it would happen this early but quad directors made students very aware that there would be loud construction especially in [Ziv]130. I wish that they wouldve been even clearer and said 7 a.m. That wouldve been beneficial but I dont blame Res Life for not knowing that detail at the time.

Due to the construction complaints, ideas for compensation have surfaced. A lot of people are talking about compensation because we pay the most for housing, especially the Village Sherman explained. Sulsky said, I personally believe a little bit of compensation is necessary but I understand the budgetary constraints. He continued, Res Life is interested in alternative forms of compensation like movie tickets or gift certificates. DeCapua mentioned the possibility of a special breakfast and free T passes along with free movie passes for those affected by construction. As far as monetary compensation is concerned, DeCapua said, how do we put a value on someones displeasure? He added, its a very slippery slope.

In response to the floating accusations of whining, Kerns responded, its important for people to understand that its not just a bunch of whiny kids. For some people, it really is intolerableIve interacted with so many people in the Village and Ive viewed them as genuine in their frustration and having their sleep and health affected in a real way. He continued, for that reason, its more than an inconvenience.

Marcus agreed, were not asking for silence but sometimes its too much. People are getting agitated and aggravatedwere not just whining. Starting at 8 a.m. is reasonable everyone understands that. He explained, [the noise] has an effect on your academic life, social life, and mental and physical health.

Editors Note: Jamie Fleishman contributed to this report.