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North Hall auditorium delay is taken in stride

February 4, 2015

When spring semester started on Jan. 26, the auditorium renovation in North Hall was supposed to be complete and ready to host classes, but the chairs were absent.

The renovation was on track for completion before the start of spring semester with no major delays. Then, at the last minute, the chairs failed to be delivered. Those classes scheduled to take place in the auditorium had to be relocated to alternate locations on campus in a hurry.

The situation was resolved before many professors or students knew of the issue. Finding an alternate room to accommodate eight classes with approximately 400 students at the last minute could have been a crisis, but UW-River Falls Registrar Daniel Vande Yacht smiled and said: “It went very smooth,” when asked about the process.

200 Rodli Commons hadn’t yet been repurposed and was open, enabling Vande Yacht to shift the displaced classes there. He gave high praise for the hard work and problem-solving to Michael Stifter, the executive director of Facilities Planning and Management, and Tim Thum, senior facilities engineer at UWRF.

A longshoreman slowdown on the West Coast prevented the new chairs from being delivered on time. It seems the chairs were just waiting to be loaded and shipped. The dockworkers, part of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union, hasn’t had a labor contract for eight months and engaged in a series of labor slowdowns. A strike was avoided but not before a slowdown stalled the completion of the North Hall auditorium renovation.

Beth Ross, a UWRF professor of animal and food science, was one of those displaced. Her temporary classroom is in Rodli Commons.

“The delay caused by the strike was not disruptive to my class in the least,” Ross said. “The announcement of the delay was made well ahead of the first day of class. This allowed ample time to notify the students about the change via D2L messaging and eSIS. The Registrar’s Office and the Campus Reservations Office have been exceedingly supportive and responsive to any questions or concerns.”

Amanda Young, one of the UWRF students displaced by the delay said: “I wasn’t even aware there was a change of plans at the last minute. The Rodli classroom is a good space. Why can’t they use any old chair for the auditorium?”

According to Stifter, these chairs are different. They are wired and are high tech with the ability to use with computers or any other device which requires electricity.

“No one on campus appears to have dropped the ball,” Stifter said. “[The chairs] sat in port for what appeared weeks, especially over the holidays, and the work slowdown, as we understand, on the West Coast with the longshoremen basically brought things to a screeching halt.”

Stifter gave much credit for the last-minute solution to Vande Yacht and Janet Hansen of the Registrar’s Office, along with Thum. In return, Vande Yacht praised Stifter and Thum as the heroes of the situation.