Next Gen construction brings more safety issues to Storrs

UConn students walk past construction on the new STEM residence hall near the Putnam Refectory on Sept. 1, 2015. (Erika Elechicon/The Daily Campus)

With the past year’s launch of many multi-million dollar construction projects across the University of Connecticut’s Storrs campus, the fencing, scaffolding, makeshift walkways and heavy equipment have multiplied. Construction can be heard from Hilltop dorms to South Campusf to the College of Agriculture, Health and Natural Resources (CAHNR) starting before 7 a.m. Workers on rooves, in roads or behind the wheel of a bull-dozer are rarely far from sight. 

“Last year with the big switch to working on Next Generation projects there is a lot more construction in Storrs,” said director of planning, architectural and engineering services Brian Gore. “It is an attractive nuisance to students and quite challenging.”

And it is that attractive quality that Gore, along with all involved in the construction projects at UConn are most worried about. 

“We did have an incident recently in which someone illegally entered a construction site in the evening and broke into a piece of heavy equipment. Fortunately, no one was injured,” deputy spokesman and manager for special projects Tom Breen said. 

Last year with the big switch to working on Next Generation projects there is a lot more construction in Storrs. It is an attractive nuisance to students and quite challenging.
— Brian Gore, director of planning, architectural and engineering services

It was this incident, along with concerns of students living surrounded by scaffolding in Wilson and Rosebrooks Halls, that prompted the university to send out an email on October 2 reminding all residents of the safety and security measures that come along with construction. 

“This message is being sent to remind you not to enter construction sites and to stay away from construction equipment,” Pamela Schipani, executive director of residential life said in the email. 

“Students have definitely said they want to try climbing on the scaffolding at some point before it comes down,” said 4th-semester mathematics major Ellie Lauri who lives in Wilson Hall. “I understand that people say it will be cool but it is extremely dangerous to be on these sites alone with no training – very dangerous.”

The university has taken measures in an attempt to ensure all students’ physical safety and peace of mind – both of which might feel threatened when your windows are covered in bars, workers can be seen walking outside your bedroom window and heard working above your head. 

“Criminal background checks are now done for anyone who will be on the site of a project over $10 million,” Gore said. “Security patrols around the site and workers are told not to interact with students in any way.”

“I feel safe here, but of course it’s not ideal,” Lauri said. “I think it’s good that they (the construction workers) are all checked, it’s good that the university has thought about all types of security.”

In her email Schipani informed students of the consequences that their safety is Residential Life’s main concern, but students do have a responsibility in ensuring it.

“Individuals who enter the sites without authorization will be reported to the police and subject to university and criminal policies,” Schipani said. “Safety on campus is everyone’s responsibility; please do your part to ensure that you and other community members are taking this responsibility seriously.”

The scaffolding surrounding the South Campus dormitories is currently planned to come down on December 13, Gore said, hopefully diminishing the safety and security issues the university and students now face.


Julia Werth is news editor for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at julia.werth@uconn.edu. She tweets @jboelwerth.