Several weeks ago, upon moving into the Roux Center for the Environment, professors were asked to don hard hats as they carted books and furniture into new offices. Originally scheduled to be complete before classes started, the building remains unfinished, with tarps covering a large portion of the building and pipes exposed in several classrooms. Students and faculty alike are trying to adapt to classes held in an active construction site.
“During class, there were so many people banging and doing their construction duties,” said Manlio Callenti ’20. “I see a guy wearing a bright construction outfit and my mind is diverted. My mind jumps back and forth. Always having so many distractions isn’t conducive to how I learn.”
According to Treasurer of the College Matt Orlando, the project is behind schedule in large part due to Maine’s severe labor shortage. The state currently has an unemployment rate of 2.7 percent, one of the lowest in the country. This scarcity of labor has posed a major challenge for the project’s contractors, who have struggled to recruit and retain skilled tradesmen in areas such as drywalling, roofing and painting. Orlando says that construction crews have been working long hours, sacrificing nights and weekends in order to finish the project.
Dean for Academic Affairs Elizabeth McCormack claimed that when the College began planning the project, it could not have accounted for the recent labor shortage. Consequently, it set the ultimately untenable August deadline for completion.
The project has also been delayed due to the backup of materials such as the large glass panels that separate classrooms. The two major features of the Roux Center that remain incomplete are the landscape surrounding the building and the multi-story glass atrium that is featured prominently at its entrance. Some classrooms also lack basic features, including shades and clocks, as well as more advanced technology such as interactive whiteboards.
“I remember on the first day of class we had to be directed to where our classroom was, and it was not in finished shape,” said Callenti. “There were no shades for the classroom so there was pure sun going through windows and everyone was sweating.”
Several faculty members and students have been forced to pause their research while more advanced technology is transferred to the new building. According to McCormack, the technology was originally set to be transported before the beginning of classes, but the move was delayed so that crews could prioritize more basic and necessary classroom components.
Callenti is currently carrying out an independent study using Bowdoin’s Scanning Electron Microscope (SEM), and will put his research on hold for 10 days as the microscope is moved in late September.
“I feel like 10 days is so much time at Bowdoin. I don’t know what I’ll be doing during that time,” he said.
Despite the setbacks, professors look forward to the unique potential of the Center once completed.
“Teaching here has been great,” said Matthew Klingle, associate professor of history and environmental studies and director of the environmental studies program. “The important thing to realize is the Roux Center for the Environment, it is a building that has science labs in it, it is a building that is designed and should be operated and envisioned to cover the entire spectrum of the liberal arts.”
Additionally, McCormack said that one unexpected result of the delayed progress is that students will have the unique opportunity to learn firsthand about the process of building a major structure on campus.
The College will not be ready to lift the restrictions on the building by September 8, the deadline sent to students in a recent email. However, Orlando is confident that the Roux Center will be completed by October 12, the date of the building’s dedication ceremony.