50 employees removed from Starbuck Center due to health concerns: After report of environmental health risks, hygienic testing set to begin next week

Posted by Julia Leef

 Next week, Skidmore College will relocate its 50 Starbuck Center employees to various locations in Case Center and Palamountain Hall, in response to the as of yet undetermined health concerns reported by employees.

When asked about the rumors of breast cancer and miscarriages as a result of working in the Starbuck environment, Dean of Student Affairs Rochelle Calhoun declined to comment.

 President Glotzbach released a statement to the student body on Jan. 25 stating that the College will take measures to determine the source of these concerns, as well as to ensure the safety of the community.

 "We do not know yet if the incidences of health problems are statistically significant, but we do know that the well-being of every individual in our community is of paramount concern to us," Glotzbach said in his statement. "For this reason, we have decided to relocate all 50 employees currently housed in Starbuck to other campus locations until we have a clear understanding of the situation."

 The transfers will take place over a three-week period, and each office will be closed for two days as furniture is moved and phone and computer lines are set up in the new locations.

 "After the relocations have been completed, we expect that Starbuck will be offline for some number of months," Executive Director of Communications Dan Forbush said in an earlier statement. "We will be able to estimate that period of time more accurately once we begin to see test results."

 During the week of Jan. 30, the Academic Advising, Registrar and Student Academic Services offices will relocate to the fourth floor of Palamountain, occupying the space recently vacated by the Office of the dean of Special Programs in its move to Filene. The Office of First-Year Experience will move to the main floor of Case Center. All offices will be closed from Jan. 30 to 31, and will reopen on Feb. 1.

The week of Feb. 6, the Bursar, Card Services and Student Financial Aid offices will move to the second floor of Palamountain into the space previously used by Media Services before its transition to the ground floor of the Scribner Library. The offices will be closed from Feb. 6 to 7, and will reopen on Feb. 8.

Finally, Career Services, the Office of Institutional Research and the Off-Campus Study and Exchange offices will now occupy various locations in Case Center, including the game room. They will be closed tentatively from Feb. 13 to Feb. 14, and will reopen on Feb. 15.

Testing will begin next week, with the aid of an industrial hygienist, to determine if the nature of the issue is related to environmental factors. Although Forbush said he would be unable to release any further information until after the tests, he did say that whatever issue is at hand has not seemed to spread outside of Starbuck to the buildings in the surrounding area, such as the Murray-Aikins Dining Hall. In addition, the College is working with any concerned employee on a case-by-case basis.

Forbush estimates that Starbuck will be vacant from two to six months, until the College can fully determine the nature of the problem. Students with questions or concerns should contact Patricia Bosen, director of Health Services, at ext. 5550. 

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