University News

Snow weighs down on U. structures

Pizzitola roof collapses under weight of snow, Andrews Commons sustains pipe break

Senior Staff Writer
Thursday, February 12, 2015

The roof of the Paul Bailey Pizzitola Memorial Sports Center collapsed under accumulated snow around 12 a.m. Wednesday, said Court Attendant Chelsie Churchill ’16, who witnessed the cave-in.

The collapse occurred shortly after members of the men’s and women’s club tennis teams left the courts at midnight, and no one incurred injuries, Churchill said.

“I was about to walk out of the office when I heard a really loud noise, but it wasn’t a noise I had heard before,” Churchill said.

A California native, Churchill said her first thought was that it was an earthquake. “My instinct was to go under the desk, but it didn’t last long enough.”

When the noises subsided, Churchill said she “peeked out and saw that part of the bubble collapsed.” After taking a photograph, she left the building in fear of further collapse.

“I’m glad it didn’t happen 10 or 20 minutes earlier,” she said. “It was pretty terrifying.”

The collapse poses an immediate threat of water damage to the court floors from the snow that fell into the building, Vice President for Facilities Management Stephen Maiorisi wrote in an email to The Herald.

The process of prevention began immediately. The work Wednesday “consisted of at least six roofing contractors removing the snow with shovels and wheelbarrows,” Maiorisi wrote. “This took approximately eight hours.”

The roof of the Pizzitola must be completely cleared of snow before repairs can begin, Mairoisi wrote. Cranes were on site Wednesday afternoon to begin the removal process, which the Department of Facilities Management expects “will take at least another full day or more,” he added.

Once the snow is completely removed, temporary repairs will be made until a more permanent solution can be implemented in the spring, he wrote, adding that roofing contractors will begin temporary mending of the roof “as early as this coming Friday morning.”

The roof, a synthetic fabric air-supported structure, is only two-and-a-half years old. “I would think they would have fixed the problem the last time it collapsed,” Churchill said, referring to the roof’s previous snow-related failure in January 2011.

“We need to investigate why the roof failed before we can fully determine what the final corrective action will be,” Maiorisi wrote.

The structural damages presently only impede tennis practices, leaving other uses of the building largely unaffected. “We are hoping to be in a position to re-open the tennis courts for use as soon as possible,” Maiorisi wrote, though he expressed concern regarding the snow forecast for the coming weekend.

“I guess I’m technically unemployed right now,” Churchill said. “The club teams don’t get to practice, so I don’t get to work.”

Winter weather also wreaked havoc on Andrews Commons Tuesday. “The cold weather affected the pipe above us and water broke through,” union worker  Stewart Doyle said. The area was closed for the day when “they replaced the tiles that were affected,” he said.

Bailey McLaughlin ’17 was in the common area on Tuesday morning, before the dining area’s standard opening. “It looked like there was ceiling that had fallen out, but I didn’t really get a good look,” she said.

The eatery closed for the remainder of the day to undergo necessary repairs.

“It looks great now, like nothing ever happened,” Doyle said.

  • Roofs caving in. Students choosing to live off-campus.
    What is Brown running, a resort or a university?
    Bricks and mortar divert Brown from its true mission…education. Just like banks discovered that they needed less physical plant in the modern era, Brown must transform its bricks-and-mortar, increase tuition and costs, mentality.

    • Incoherent Lonergan

      I’m not sure why students choosing to live off-campus is a problem. In fact, to you shouldn’t that be a plus? If Brown didn’t have to run residence halls at all, you’d probably be happier.

      • I’d be happiest if Brown educated millions of students around the world without relying for all its impact on bricks and mortar.

        • SoHappy

          Thank you for your comment. I learned a lot.

        • rick131

          This is exactly why Brown needs to increase its bricks and mortar, so all the old buildings do not come crumbling down. One of the reasons why Stanford is basically blowing the ivies away, is their constant construction and updating of facilities. Stanford built ten major buildings last year while Harvard is still trying to figure out where to build an engineering school.

          • RIck, Brown’s reliance on ever-increasing capital infrastructure simply puts it more in the past. Brown’s sky-high tuitions are due to its sky-high costs for people and physical plant, both of which, to a major degree, have nothing to do with educating Brown students.
            Brown should rather focus its energies on educating more people, through various media, online and off, both in Providence and around the world.
            The “Preis/Leistungsverhältnis” of such a move is much better–for those of you who took German at Brown, that means “Price/performance ratio.”
            Physical plant is both a distraction and a cost-driver for Brown. With only $3.2 billion in endowment (smallest in the Ivy League), one of the highest tuitions in the US ($62,000) and poor teacher productivity and results (I learned more German in a 2-week Berlitz course than at Brown), there’s a fundamental problem here, folks.
            I WANT to spend money on a Brown education as an alum–Brown doesn’t offer me a way to do so. Who’s responsible for that failure?
            BTW, my OTHER alma mater, Harvard, is offering me courses all the time!

            John Lonergan, BA ’72, MBA (Harvard) ’76, Medical Device Venture Capitalist, San Francisco (see

          • rick131

            Altho I agree with you that online education has basically no overhead, why do you want Brown (or any university) to become the University of Phoenix or Kaplan university, an online diploma mill? How can athletes train if they don’t have up to date facilities? How can science and medicine and engineers progressing discover if they don’t have state of the art facilities and labs? And Harvard built a brand new business school building because Stanford, Wharton, Chicago, and Northwestern all did. They didn’t have to.

          • What do you not understand about the concept of “disintermediation”? Have you heard of social media? Do you think that SWC and N are sitting on their bricks and mortar laurels? Why did banks close down their magnificent buildings.
            Think, man! We’re in a new, disruptive era!
            Why should a 64-year-old alum need to tell you this?

          • rick131

            I don’t know what you are talking about. Here on the east coast banks and financial institutions are building bigger glass towers than ever. Scientists, engineers, doctors, researchers, can’t learn “online.”

          • alum

            Bank of America built the new Bryant Park office in NYC because it was cheaper than a renovation. Schools don’t have the luxury to relocated (especially Brown in the city of Providence which is quite hostile to the idea of an expanded footprint). In the finance example, the concept is not physical v. online, but phsical hq supplemented by online v. tons of physical branch offices. The banks consolidated physical offices for leaner efficiency and supplemented other banking needs with online resources and ATMs. What is so difficult about accepting the truth that Brown needs to supplement its education, experience, and reach with online resources?

  • John Lonergan

    One day we are going to read an article without a John Lonergan rant at the bottom. That’s the day I’ll panic.

    • Stick to the topic. If you’re happy with Brown remaining in the 19th Century, you need not bother yourself with constructive criticism. If, like me, you feel Brown is hopelessly out of touch, then join us.