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Mike Johnson '11: Brown is more than just Facs, Man

While reading The Herald the other day, I read an interesting article about an apparent "oversight" on the part of Facilities Management in approving a T-Mobile cell tower on the roof of Barus and Holley ("Profs to FacMan: Can you hear us now?" Oct. 19). My initial response was laughter. I can think of numerous occasions in the recent past when Facilities Management, or FacMan, seemed alarmingly out of touch with University needs.

In 2007, FacMan, as part of renovations to Gardner House, decided it was a good idea to break out the jackhammers at 7 a.m. every day directly outside of Littlefield Hall, a freshman dormitory. Initial complaints received a curt response, claiming that the contract day started before the students would like, urging the alleged crybaby freshmen to stop complaining. It was only after a grassroots movement of flooding FacMan with phone calls that the jackhammers started at a more reasonable — but still ridiculously early for students — time of 9 a.m.

Just this month, the University was informed via e-mail that Faunce Arch was to be closed to pedestrians until the opening of the spring semester. This closure was dated for Oct. 19, conspicuously after Family Weekend — probably meant to avoid inconveniencing parents and alumni visiting campus.

FacMan was obviously aware of the ramifications of closing one of the most-used pedestrian paths on campus. Yet they remained steadfast in their self-importance, and needless barriers loom on the horizon. In a recent Herald exclusive, FacMan was said to have "recognized that the closing of the arch would be a significant inconvenience for students and faculty" ("In boon for pedestrians, Faunce Arch to stay open," Oct. 22). This recognition seems a little late, based on the details; sounds to me like enough people complained.

But this most recent "oversight" of the fact that FacMan provides support for actual people, not just buildings immune to the effects of screaming, early-morning jackhammers, is clearly the worst. Why? It's happened before. Just 19 years ago, a radio transmitter on the Sciences Library shut down equipment in Barus and Holley. There are still professors here who remember the incident, and would surely have politely reminded FacMan ... if they had been consulted.

However, FacMan needs no consultation. Like a circular tyrant gobbling up dots, FacMan plods along, approving projects and handing down edicts on sleep schedules and pedestrian paths, and now even important academic research. It seems blatantly obvious to me that FacMan should consult with the people who work in the building that's about to have a giant tower on its roof to beam radio waves into its hallowed halls. FacMan's apology for the oversight left a little to be desired as well — they said that they "did miss" the fact that Barus and Holley was a research facility.

Inexcusable. FacMan is a part of this University, and needs to become more aware of the impact of its actions. How, despite being a vital cog in the educational machine, is it even possible for FacMan to forget that Barus and Holley is a research facility, complete with real research equipment? That's like forgetting that University Hall is where President Ruth Simmons works.

Now I'm not trying to be the one to throw a ladder up against the side of 295 Lloyd Avenue. Nor am I proposing student involvement in decisions regarding construction projects or their timetables. I'm by no means advocating an overthrow of the despotic FacMan. I'm merely pointing out that FacMan has no clothes.

It's quite clear that people are not among FacMan's top priorities, despite its nice employees who come to fix our heaters at all hours of the night. But FacMan as an entity, FacMan as the keeper of the keys, needs to realize that people use its playthings, the buildings. People walk these sidewalks; they aren't just for show.

Instead, I propose a sobering, drastic change in FacMan policy — communication. Maybe if FacMan had actually talked to Barus and Holley researchers, they'd have known about sensitive equipment that might be affected by a giant cell tower spewing out radiation. Little oversights like this won't have to be commonplace anymore.

Instead of blindly going about business as usual, perhaps FacMan should reflect on its communication policy and whether it needs to expand upon what's there. It's clear that when discussing transformative building projects, FacMan needs to take a small step back, look at the big picture and pay attention to the little people.

Mike Johnson '11 has the high score on the lesser-known Ms. FacMan.


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