Alyssa Marie Mathews is at Southern Oregon University in the Bachelor of Fine Arts acting program. But for the past few weeks she has been an activist on behalf of her program which she says is suffering as a result of being in the half-century old Cascade Complex buildings on Indiana Street on the university campus. All admit, SOU staff and students alike, that the buildings are old, leaky and in disrepair.
“It’s rough. The whole complex is rough,” said university spokesman Joe Mosley.
“We’re the people paying for this. We’re paying so much money. Theater students pay a theater differential and we pay a building fee. It’s very unfair and it’s very messed up,” Mathews said.
Her concerns were addressed last week Thursday when facilities staff and students put together a hurried meeting with short notice. “We originally thought we may need to do a couple of things. We had just heard about these concerns and wanted to get ahead of them. We only had about four hours notice but we got a good turn out,” said Mosley, who reported between 50 and 60 students present.
Chief among the complaints were leaks, musty smells, dampness and difficulty regulating heat. Many of the concerns were in room 108 where theater students have the bulk of their classes, according to Mathews.
“One day I remember going into my class and it was raining heavily. There were several leaks in the glass ceiling,” said Mathews. “During the summer it gets unbearably hot. It gets extremely cold during the winter. For awhile the thermostat wasn’t working. It was very inconsistent and just awful in general.”
SOU staffers agreed the conditions are not good. “The building deserves to be torn down,” said Mosley — but he also said until the Theater Arts building is renovated this will have to do, so long as it’s repaired and up to standards which support students' safety and comfort.
“Our facilities staff has a list of things to do,” Mosley said. First up are fixing leaks and then any other problems that can be taken care of by staff. “It’s been in disrepair for years,” he said. The athletics department offices are also in the Cascade Complex while their primary building is being rebuilt.
Theater Arts was set to be started by now but the university encountered delays. The contractor the SOU first chose decided to raise its bid price substantially as the economy and construction market improved, making it an unreasonable choice, according to Mosley. A local contractor has now been selected at a fee of roughly $11 million. Construction was due to begin this week.
“We all wanted the same thing. Bottom line is we want the new project done as quickly as possible and want our students safe and comfortable as possible in the interim," Mosley said. "They want that too.”
Students from Theater Arts have been temporarily housed in the Cascade Complex since the fall of 2015.
Facilities workers, according to Mosley, met Friday and are on the job making any and all repairs they can to the Cascade Complex. They won’t be doing an entire renovation, due to the fact the university is not planning on keeping Cascade. “It’s slated to be torn down some time in the future. We made a conscious decision not to put a lot of money in it.”
Mathews expressed optimism that the students are being heard now that they’ve brought the problems in the open. “I think that now that we’ve banded together and really brought issues to light, I think they’ll listen to us. if they don’t, we’re going to keep fighting.
“I think the leaks in 108 have been fixed. I can’t tell you everything they mentioned has been checked out as of right now, but they are getting taken care of,” Mosley said.
— Email Ashland freelance writer Julie Akins at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow her on Twitter at twitter.com/@julieakins.