Editorial: Striking the balance in response to Starbuck: Both students and adminstration must press for transparency amidst a difficult situation

Posted by the Editorial Board

For both faculty and students, the evacuation of Starbuck Center upon the first week of this term made for a jarring re-entry from winter break. After reports of health concerns from a few staffers, the College administration took the precaution to swiftly shut down the building and subject it to testing.

Now the situation is rife with rumor. The building's 50 employees, most of who have already vacated, are taking up residence in temporary offices across campus. As the winter chill settles around an empty and slightly forbidding Starbuck, students here are asking professors, mail room clerks, and each other about what exactly shut down the Center – and should we all be worried about it?

There have been whispers of severe illnesses among the individual staffers as well as ominous recollections of the building's swampy climate. The administration, when asked to comment on the substance of these rumors, declined. Without a clear and defined statement of the severity of the health concerns, it is easy to see why students are frustrated and in some cases alarmed.

The administrators find themselves in a particularly demanding spot: they cannot divulge the private information of the individuals who triggered the evacuation, while their resulting generalized announcements to the student body are bound to raise questions.

Between these twin liabilities – the privacy of those individuals on one end with the health concerns of the rest of campus on the other – the administrators of the College must strike a very careful equilibrium.

In speaking with the Skidmore News, President Glotzbach stated "we must balance the questions of the community with the wellbeing and privacy of the small group of employees who work in that building." Along with Dean of Student Affairs Rochelle Calhoun the president stressed that based on the completed tests thus far – testing radon, formaldehyde, carbon dioxide and monoxide levels – there is nothing indicative about the building's climate to cause alarm.

The president also stressed that the College has been extra cautious in its reaction to the reports. "We went beyond the recommendations made by the hygienists. Shutting down an entire building – no small thing – is really a considerable move for an institution to carry out."

Indeed, those employees of Starbuck who have already migrated to their new temporary offices claim the process has been orderly and accommodating, and the President praised these employees' patience in return.

When asked once more to contextualize the health concerns that loom over this rearrangement, Glotzbach again refrained from providing any details. "Based on the relatively small number of folks who work there – we don't believe it's appropriate to comment. We're not prepared to comment."

Next up is a series of epidemiological tests on Starbuck, which by all accounts will run for an extended period. From this point forward it is up to the student body to respect the delicate nature of the problem, while it is up to the administration to remain as transparent as possible out of respect for students and faculty.

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