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 relocated to the half-century old Cascade Complex buildings on Indiana Street.
While a renovation of the Theater Arts building is in the works, SOU staff and students concede that relocating to the Cascade Complex buildings has had its drawbacks because the structures 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 a few weeks ago when facilities staff and students put together a hurried meeting on 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 turnout,” said Mosley, who reported between 50 and 60 students present.
Chief among the complaints were leaks, a musty odor, 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 a while, 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.
“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 its primary building is being rebuilt.
The Theater Arts renovation was set to be started by now, but the university encountered delays. The contractor SOU first chose decided to raise its bid price substantially as the economy and construction market improved, according to Mosley. A local contractor has now been selected at a fee of roughly $11 million. Construction was due to begin last 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 Jan. 27 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 the complex.
“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 to the forefront.
“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 (Room) 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.