Margaret Brent Relocation a Success

Minutes before midnight on Sept. 13, crowds of students gathered in anticipation to witness the move of Margaret Brent Hall across Route 5 to its new location, the Campus Center parking lot behind Aldom Lounge.

After being delayed one night due to inclement weather conditions, the 4,100 square foot building made it safely to the Campus Center parking lot in the early morning hours of Sept. 14.  “It was up Rt. 5 and off Rt. 5 by 4:30 that morning,” said Associate Vice President for Planning and Facilities Charles “Chip” Jackson.

After the initial move, Margaret Brent was checked for any damages made while on its voyage before it was lowered into its final resting place.  According to the website of the Office of Planning and Facilities, the interior of the building will see many new changes and improvements before it is used again including a lobby, kitchenette, mail room, 12 offices, a 30-seat classroom, and a seminar room.

“It all went terrifically,” said Jackson, about the move itself.  “It was incredible just to watch the building actually being moved.”

The original idea to move Margaret Brent was proposed by Vice President for Business and Finance Tom Botzman “roughly a year and a half ago,” said Jackson.  “He posed the first question of if we could move it versus tearing it down.  How to move it and where was then controlled by my office.”

Jackson gave three basic reasons for why the move took place, rather than just tearing down and rebuilding Margret Brent Hall.  One is economics. “It would have cost about a half of million dollars more [to rebuild],” said Jackson.  “It’s also more sustainable.  There’s a lot of energy going into the construction of a building, so there’s a green component as well.”  And though Margaret Brent, built in 1950, is not a historical building, Jackson feels it’s “an important building in our past and adds to our college.”

In its new location, Margaret Brent Hall will house the Department of Philosophy and Religious Studies.

“I’m very excited about the move,” said Professor of Religious Studies Daniel Meckel.  “[Margaret Brent] is a nice building, and it brings the department closer to the center of campus.”

Meckel hopes the new location of the department will allow occasional outdoor classes to be more possible as well as introduce a more appealing student hang out spot.  “I would like to see students flowing in and out as much as possible,” he said.

The current home of the department is in Anne Arundel Hall, which is set to be torn down in Fall 2013 to make way for the new Maryland Heritage Interpretive Center, to be completed in summer of 2016, according to Jackson.

This new 33,700 gross square foot center, in addition to the replacement of Anne Arundel Hall, will allow Historic St. Mary’s City and college academic programs in anthropology, museum studies, and language and cultures to collaborate in preserving the historical and archaeological aspect of the first capital of Maryland.  The site will feature a new courtyard, more handicapped accessibility, additional college parking, safer walkways and roadways, and new landscaping surrounding the complex.

Rt 5 Construction in Works

After over 20 years of plans, deliberations and complications, construction on Route 5 has begun with the intention to make the highway safer, especially for pedestrians.
The Capital Design Advisory Committee has three projects it is currently working on, with Route 5 being one of them. The committee hopes to bring better lighting, improved crosswalks and a way to make sure cars obey the posted speed limit. Associate Vice President of Planning and Facilities Chip Jackson has been working on this project since 1987. “The first ideas for Route 5 safety began in 1987,” said Jackson, “and the planning began in 1992.” However, complications arose and the project never went through. In 2008, more serious planning began for traffic calming.

Right now, one of the main focuses to improve safety is on forcing drivers to acknowledge and drive the actual speed limit for this stretch of the highway. “The speed limit for the area is 30 mph, but the road is built for cars to go 50 mph,” said Jackson. “Right now the road suggests you can drive fast.” According to Jackson, if a person is hit by car that is going 40 mph or more, there is only an 8% chance of survival. However, highway engineers have methods of designing roads that will encourage drivers to drive quickly or slowly.  Narrowing the lanes would get drivers to go the speed limit, at which point the chance of survival after an accident jumps to about 60 percent.

In addition to the speed limit concern, campus officials and engineers are also considering painting more appropriately placed crosswalks, building a pedestrian bridge over Fisher’s Creek (much like the one that crosses St. John’s Pond), implementing more and better lighting along the road, and constructing elevated sidewalks. The sidewalks would serve at least two purposes: they would provide a safer place than the shoulder for pedestrians to walk and they would discourage crossing at anywhere other than at a designated crosswalk, since people are less likely to leave a raised sidewalk.

Though there have been no reported pedestrian accidents along Route 5, Jackson cited many “close calls” and noted numerous vehicle accidents. The overhaul is also part of a larger attempt, according to President Joseph Urgo, to improve safety on campus in general. Urgo noted the increased call boxes, the widening of the path leading to the Campus Center, and the pavement improvements to the paths by Glendening Hall.

Jackson and Urgo have been working with the local and college community to get feedback on the plans through open houses and open-to-the-public meetings. “I’ve spoken to elected officials, our State Delegate and our State Representative, along with locals,” Urgo said. “The main concern with locals is if firetrucks and police cars will be able to get through. Also, Route 5 is an evacuation route so we want to make sure that isn’t impaired.” Because of these concerns, officials have eliminated some traditional traffic calming methods such as speed bumps and medians.

In addition to evacuation concerns, Urgo noted the importance of maintaining the aesthetic of the road. “[We] don’t want to do anything that would compromise the glory of the turn [and] the view of the water.” Consequently, the intention is to do nothing that would dramatically alter the look.

All of Route 5 construction is being paid for by federal funds and will cost about $1 million. Construction, tentatively, will begin next summer and take six to seven months to complete. Jackson “wants students, faculty and staff to be involved in the process and to come to the preliminary meetings.” The next open house will be Sept. 14 from 3 to 6 p.m. in Daugherty-Palmer Commons with another, more formal presentation happening at 7 p.m. at St. Mary’s Hall. The meetings are open to the public and students are encouraged to attend and provide their input.

College Plans Several Renovations, Projects for Summer 2011

As the semester is coming to a close and students plan their summers, the Office of Planning and Facilities are making plans for their own projects.  According to Chip Jackson, associate vice president of planning and facilities, it is going to be a busy summer.

The major project planned for this summer will be Margaret Brent Hall.  After several years of talks and excavations,  Margaret Brent will be moved from its present location behind Anne Arundel Hall to the parking lot next to the Campus Center.  Margaret Brent will be the future home of the Departments of Philosophy and Religious Studies.  The move is thought to be a more economically sound choice since it will cost less to move the building then building a new one.

Jackson could not elaborate on a date other than by saying that the move will take place in June or July.  “Once [the date is] known we will publicized [it]” said Jackson, “be sure to check the website during the summer.”

Lewis Quad will also be the focus of a lot of attention. First, the LQ Eatery will open officially in its new renovated form. There has been a lot of discussions about what the space will look like.  “[It] will be very different,” Jackson commented.

Planning and Facilities has also been considering a redesign of the LQ courtyard.  “No one seems to like the gravel” said Jackson as he discussed how it might be removed.  At this time, Jackson could not expand on what form the courtyard will take since several more meetings still have to take place.  “This is a goal” remarked Jackson.

Two other projects on campus will be the renovating of the Townhouse Greens’ bathrooms and new sidewalks in several location around campus. Jackson alluded that the bathrooms in the Greens are long overdue for renovating.

In several locations, the sidewalks will be remodeled as well. This includes between Glendenning, Montgomery, and Schaefer Halls and between Goodpaster Hall and the Michael P O’Brien Athletic and Recreation Center.  These projects include putting more brick paths down while removing the concrete sidewalks that already exist. According to Jackson, the funds for these changes are coming from the state, not the College’s budget.

The sidewalk between St. John’s Pond and the Library will also be expanded to take account of the high levels of traffic along the path.  This will also help solve the problem of the muddy space that can be found along the entire path up to the Library. This project will be using College funding.

The last major task of the summer will be redesigns for Route 5.  Officially called the “Route 5 Safety and Traffic Calming Project,” this project is planned to make the crossings safer for students. “There will be a lot of community interest in this project,” said Jackson, “we want the students, who are also members of the community, to engage with us during this project.”

The project, which will be federally funded, is suppose to slow traffic that are driving along the bend in Route 5. According to Jackson, the designing will begin in the fall. The plans for this project are still in the air and Planning and Facilities are looking for student input.

“We need students,” said Jackson, “so please voice your opinions.” There will be several public meetings planned in the fall that students will be able to attend.


Anne Arundel Grounds Hide History

In anticipation of the demolition of Anne Arundel Hall, there has been a whirlwind of activity around the building as members of both the College and Historic St. Mary’s City (HSMC) search for pieces of history that have remained hidden underground around the building for centuries.

Ruth Mitchell, Senior Staff Archaeologist for the project, described the process of searching for artifacts as a two-fold endeavor.

“There are two phases when searching for artifacts,” said Mitchell, “first we must search the plow zone, where most of the artifacts can be found.”

The plow zone, near the top of the soil, is in great condition because of the method of construction used for Anne Arundel Hall during the 1950s.

Mitchell explains that when the building was constructed, two feet of soil was brought in to level the hill-side to allow for the protection of artifacts.

Mitchell continued, “We go beneath the plow zone to see if we can find features.”

Features would include posts from old fences, the foundations of buildings, and any other human-made object that penetrates the top levels of the soil.

Since last summer, the team of archeologists working on the Anne Arundel Project have been uncovering relics that have been preserved since before the colonial Marylanders arrived.

Some of the artifacts that have been discovered have included objects from daily life including pieces of tobacco pipes and ceramic pots.

However, the most interesting find so far has been the brick foundation of an unknown building.

Tax records are still being researched to try to identify what this building was used for, but by studying the foundations there are indications that it had a cellar on one side of the building.

The bricks also seem to have been recycled. “The bricks have the same maker’s mark that was found among those belonging to the old brick chapel,” said Mitchell.

It seems to the team that the practice of recycling building materials has been happening at St. Mary’s long before the College was founded.

Over the next few years, Anne Arundel is going to be taken apart in stages to allow for the team to explore the soil beneath the building.

There is speculation that there is an 18th century plantation under the site, but this building still has yet to be discovered.

These searches have also resulted in the discovery of the 17th century Middle Street.

Middle Street was one of the main streets during the time of the original city; it also connected the town center to the local jail, which was located roughly where Kent Hall is located today.

“The archaeological evidence that we are gathering informs us about the past, and how the landscape has changed over long periods of time,” Mitchell said.

“We are learning about the Native American period, the historic 17th and 18th centuries, as well as the modern evolution of SMCM as an institution.”

Trustee Talks Strategic Plan

Who likes planning? It’s one of those tedious tasks that always seems to be hovering over you like a rain cloud until that day you finally get a plan hashed out and a rainbow shines through. Who doesn’t like rainbows?

Well, right now, the college is stuck with the rain cloud. We’re at the end of our old strategic plan and are in the process of pulling together a new one. The strategic plan is the guiding document for the entire institution heading into the future. In this case, it’s going to cover the next five years, and will encompass every aspect of campus.

As our current draft is now structured, we have four overarching goals that everything else we want to do fits under. They are: a rigorous academic program; access, affordability and diversity; sustainability and environmental stewardship; and community and civil engagement. Each of these is further broken down into vital priorities, and then more tactics within those priorities (sometimes with sub-tactics under that; it’s like a giant, mind-boggling outline).

While the goals are labeled one through four, and everything within the goals has a number of some kind, nothing has been prioritized, which is a slight problem. That’s going to take another bajillion meetings, but it is so necessary in order to make the tough decisions.

We have some sub-committees that are dealing with the nitty gritty, and then those sub-committees bring their work to the full committee for feedback. In essence, this is going to be a long process, so buckle up.

Now, I want to know when my terrible metaphor is going to come back to fruition and we’re going to see the rainbow for all it is worth. If you cross all your fingers and avoid breaking any mirrors, we’ll have the whole nine yards squared away by the end of the academic year, possibly sooner.

Things were greatly delayed last year due to our lack of a full President (shout out to Larry Vote for the excellent job he did as acting President). But now with President Urgo on board, we’re really cracking down.

His vision is feeding into the whole of the strategic plan, and the final draft is beginning to come together. If you want to know more, or give your opinions on what is best for the school, don’t hesitate to contact me at!

See you on the Path!

Water Main Break on the Hill (Web Exclusive)

Many residents were left without access to water in their respective dorms on Tuesday morning, Sept. 7, due to a water main break in the Dorchester circle that occurred a day prior. Water lines were shut off at 8 a.m., and were said to be unavailable for an “undetermined amount of time.”

According to Harry Sparrow, Assistant Director of the Physical Plant, contractors shut down the water tower to relieve the overall pressure on the broken water line and closed the isolation valves in the dorms, which included Caroline, Prince George, Dorchester, and Queen Anne Hall.

“We kept Well 5 on to keep the water pressure up so that people could bathe and clean up, and left building water on overnight. It’s always an inconvenience because the water was shut off to at least six buildings,” Sparrow said. He added, “Everything but the traditional dorms, Montgomery Hall, Cobb House and the Health Center had water. The north side of campus was unaffected because we were able to isolate those buildings from the rest of the system.”

Some residents, such as First-year Leila Kurman of Prince George Hall, found alternative ways to deal with a lack of water supply, including showering in advance of the anticipated 8 a.m. shut off time and using water bottles as replacements in their morning routines.

Contactors were unable to begin construction until after Labor Day, but fortunately for residents the issue was resolved quickly and efficiently around noon.

“It was nice that by the time I got back after class on Tuesday, all the water was back on,” Kurman said. “If it had been something that went on overnight, that would have been awful. I feel like they took care of it well, so it wasn’t a big deal.”

Senior Monica Powell, like many upperclassman residents, was unaware of the issue, as it did not affect the north side of Campus. “The water main break didn’t effect the Greens, so I didn’t even know about it till I came to class,” Powell said. She added, “But I really admire how quickly the staff got things together and sorted it out, because I’m sure it was a big inconvenience for a lot of people.”

Joanne Goldwater, Director of Residential Life, sent an email to the Residence Assistants of Caroline, Dorchester, and Prince George halls alerting them of the inconvenience and asking them to make sure their halls were aware of the problem. Goldwater expressed initial concern of the effect the break would have on residential life.

“I found out on that Monday that the break was going to be affecting more than just the hill where the dorms are, it was going to be affecting food services and the campus center as well,” Goldwater said, “And then to find out that the water was being shut down that morning with no other advance warning to the students; although I know it was an emergency situation, we have students who live in the residence halls, and we have no water for them. It was frustrating – understandable, because we had to fix the problem – but definitely frustrating.”

According to Goldwater, although many were inconvenienced, students approached the issue calmly and maturely. Goldwater said, “I think the students reacted very appropriately, and I commend them for handling this trial and tribulation so maturely while maintenance got everything under control,”

Goldwater added. “I didn’t get any phone calls or emails indicating any anger for what we call in this office ‘out of our control situations.’ People are pretty resilient and understanding of the situations that just cannot be controlled. When someone outside of the college has to come in to take care of the situation, your just have to go with the flow.
No pun intended.”