The next four years at Kenyon will see more construction than the previous two decades combined. Many of these buildings under construction are vital to the operation of the campus. As such, when construction gets delayed, everyone at the College is hurt. So, when the two downtown study spaces and the Gambier Deli opened four months after the five months estimated to build them, I wanted to know who was to blame.
Construction delays on our campus can be explained by two simple issues: our rural location and the construction schedule. I am no expert on construction, but I am chair of the student council committee on buildings and grounds (which sounds so boring you might be surprised it exists) and have acquired a small amount of knowledge on the topic.
When Kenyon undertakes a consruction project, the workers, along with their materials and equipment, often must travel farther to get here than to an urban construction site. This adds logistical difficulties for a construction company on our campus, frequently forcing them to go greater lengths to house and transport their workers themselves. This adds to the things that can go wrong on any construction job, but especially so for smaller companies that have minimal support staff, like the one building downtown spaces. The rural component does, however, have the notable advantage of providing additional storage space for the construction company. That aside, the rural qualities of Kenyon will always challenge construction companies.
The construction schedule is the more obvious issue. I use “schedule” as a broad term to refer to the expectations of all stakeholders for the important milestones of the construction and final delivery date of the building. Construction at Kenyon, like many other things, is controlled by a wide range of people, including Kenyon staff, construction company managers and subcontractors. Together, they set a schedule for building. In the case of the downtown buildings, this schedule clearly had unrealistic expectations.
I believe that these two combined issues, likely along with other events that I am unaware of, were the cause of the vast delays. Which, of course, means that everyone is to blame: the construction company that failed to complete the building by multiple promised dates, the College that pushed for a quick completion time and of course Philander Chase for placing us here in the first place.
Now that the construction of the downtown area is practically over, the real question Kenyon students should be asking is what this means for the library. Though its construction is being overseen by a larger — and arguably more professional — company than the one that built the downtown spaces, it will deal with all the same problems, just on a larger scale. At its most intensive, the project is expected to involve over 20 subcontractors, which, all told, will bring around 200 workers commuting into Gambier every day, some from over two hours away. However, it does seem that the Kenyon staff have tempered their ambitious expectations for the schedule, and there are no indications that the company has missed any deadlines so far.
While we should approach almost everything on this campus with a healthy dose of criticism and questioning, let us give the library construction company the benefit of the doubt. If you see one of the workers walking around, don’t hesitate to say hello and ask how the construction is going; after all, they are going to be a huge part of the campus for the next three years.
Nathan Grosh ’19 is an economics and English major from Ann Arbor, Mich. You can contact him at email@example.com.