Mired on Mather Quad

Aging Mather House awaits renovation

Faculty working at Mather House complain about the heating, pipelines, ventilation, air-conditioning and other problems of the building.

Igor Tutelman

Faculty working at Mather House complain about the heating, pipelines, ventilation, air-conditioning and other problems of the building.

As students walk on campus this fall, some might notice the construction that many of the buildings are undergoing. This is most apparent on Mather Quad, as both Clark Hall and Guilford House have had external renovations that are coming to a close. Despite various faculty complaints, Mather House is currently not one of the buildings under construction.

Much like an emergency room, the buildings on Mather Quad are dealt with on the basis of which building’s repairs are the most urgent. The crumbling bricks of Clark Hall created some risk to the students walking near it. Guilford House’s porch had the potential to be unstable, and it was time for a renovation. However, not all buildings are quite so visibly in need of repair.

Mather House has long been a problem for the faculties of the Political Science and History Departments. Kathryn Lavelle, a professor in the Political Science Department , has encountered several problems with her office’s Mather House location since coming to CWRU in 2001. Lavelle has been evacuated from her office thrice due to ice dams on the exterior of the Mather House that caused the ceiling to collapse, as well as spontaneous water damage that revealed asbestos in the walls of the building. The result was that Lavelle was temporarily without an office, which made meeting with students and working in general difficult.

“In 2013, Rhonda Williams organized us because of a series of problems,” said Lavelle. “We approached the administration formally because of the conditions in the building. Stephen Campbell [the vice president for Campus Planning and Facilities Management] said that they were going to gut the building, replace the carpet, etc.”

Professors have also had difficulties with an intermittent lack of heat within the building in the past two years. However that is reported as having been fixed. In light of the repeated evacuations, Lavelle keeps all of her work and materials for her books in plastic bins to prevent loss due to water damage and works as much as she can from home. “The shame of it is, professionally, it limits the number of times that I can meet with students because I have to have my main office at home for my scholarly works,” said Lavelle.

A professor who would prefer to remain anonymous enumerated several problems of the building: The pipes are leaking; the heating, ventilation and air-conditioning have been a problem and the door leading into the basement offices was stuck, causing a fire hazard.

Campbell commented that Mather House “was built more than a century ago. Although it has received many updates over the years, its essential structure is unchanged.”

According to Campbell, the university is planning to update Mather House’s common area. Several classrooms in Mather House are upgraded annually with support from University Technology and the Office of the Provost. “Isolated incidents of leaks, forcing an office relocation, will be minimized through planned repairs to the building envelope,” said Campbell.  

Campbell also mentioned that the systems will be replaced one at a time as the funds become available. He said, “Some of the contemplated renovations will be able to be funded through the university’s capital budget. Its more ambitious elements will require philanthropic support.”

The administration has a campus master plan that calls for more building renovations and the creation of a grassy quadrangle on Mather Quad. To make the space more pedestrian friendly, the administration is considering the potential closure of Bellflower Road from the Tinkham Veale University Center to Ford Road.