Last semester, Founders Hall had something unique to it. It was nothing like a class that was only offered once every other semester. What made Founders Hall unique last semester was the strange odor coming from several locations in it. Some students could not take the smell, others moved their seats and the ones who desperately wanted to get away from it, just prayed class would end early. Some of those students got lucky.
George Hebard, an adjunct science professor, has worked here for the last 15 years. Last semester, he dealt with something for the first time. Teaching Biology Principles at 8:15 a.m. in room 358, he encountered an odd aroma.
“One student started to stir and asked that class be evacuated,” Hebard said. To get some air into the classroom, he tried opening the door, which only made matters worse. After trying to teach his class for some time, he had to cut the class short by 25 minutes.
“It smelled like it was coming in through the ducts and since you can’t open the windows, the smell was very nauseating.” After going back to collect his materials, he warned the incoming 9:35 class to all hold their noses. So far this semester, he has not experienced any foul odor in his classroom. “It was actually very funny.”
Having to deal with the situation once, wondering what it was, seemed rather humorous to Hebard. But for Maria DeFruscio, a junior, the situation is only disgusting. Last semester, DeFruscio took “Introduction to Christian Tradition” with Reverend Dr. Timothy Lent, a doctor of the ministry and an adjunct religion professor, at 12:30; lunch time. “We had class in room 202, the one next to the guy’s bathroom,” DeFruscio said. DeFruscio’s theory is that the men’s bathroom is emitting the odor and there may be some kind of pipe problem. Whatever the actual problem is, she had noticed it making people in her class sick or giving them headaches. “I’d never gotten sick because I used to sit in the front of the room. The smell was much worse in the back, [near the wall separating the men’s room from the class].” Though this smell was a problem for some last semester, DeFruscio also encountered it on Jan. 23 in the radio station, during her 6 to 8 p.m. shift.
Like Hebard’s class, DeFruscio’s instructor took action as well. “We never had class cancelled, but we moved into the parking lot once and moved to different class rooms twice.” DeFruscio even recalls coming to the class once to find a note on the board about where class was being held. The note on the board indicated that class was being moved to a different location for the day “due to the stench.”
Lent also took action by making some phone calls. “The problem was never addressed,” Lent said. Unlike Hebard, Lent had to deal with the smell several times all semester. The only thing the room had to combat the problem was the vent, as the windows do not open. “It was a major distraction. You should never subject students to something like that. It is my sincere hope that maintenance will do something about it for the sake of having a better learning environment for the students.”
Pat Kelly, a sophomore who was one of the students in Hebard’s Biology class, has come across the smell in both locations on their separate floors. One location is on the third floor of Founders Hall, somewhere in between the foreign language lab and room 358. In between those two areas are the men and women’s respective bathrooms. Kelly has also been around the smell on the second floor where DeFruscio had her class that could not take the smell. This semester, Kelly has been fortunate enough to not run into the smell again. While he was not really sure what it was last semester, all he knows was that he did not enjoy the smell and it made him feel like he “was going to pass out.”
But what could the smell that is disrupting students and faculty alike possibly be? Though he has received no formal complaints from anyone, Howard Holden, director of maintenance, has some idea. “Something like this happened over the break and was common to the dorms,” Holden said. Apparently, a lack of use can dry up the pipes. Pipes are constantly filled with water, but when there is little use, the pipes dry up and there is not water to block sewer gas. The gas can then move up the pipes and be released, giving off a foul stench. “It’s very mysterious, but it happens when the pipes aren’t used to their fullest capacity.”
Holden recommends that students make public safety aware of this, should they run into these problems again this semester. But he is very sure of himself when he says, ” There is no real hazard, it’s just a real bad smell.”