Somers Hall opening delayed

A 180-bed extension to Somers Hall on the Mount Vernon campus will not be ready to open next fall as planned because of delays receiving a building permit and slowed construction from bad weather, University officials said.

The planned completion date was pushed to September from August after contractors realized they could not meet the building’s “ambitious construction schedule,” Mount Vernon Executive Dean Grae Baxter said.

“Obviously we’re all disappointed when these things happen,” Mount Vernon Executive Dean Grae Baxter said. “Every one of us pushes on as hard as we can to see that a project is finished as fast as it can.”

Baxter said construction was halted about two months while the University awaited a building permit from the District.

Roger Lyons, director of Facilities Development, refused to comment on the progress of the construction.

The construction delays forced the University to come up with an alternative plan for accommodating students the campus planned to add next year, Baxter said.

All sophomores, juniors and seniors who agree to live in the new Somers extension when it opens in spring 2002 may join a new study abroad program to live overseas while the building is finished. Students in the program, called the GW World Community, may choose to study in 11 countries and receive a travel stipend as large as $1,500.

Gretchen King, director of Media Relations, said the program, designed to accommodate 100 students, offers a unique opportunity for first-semester sophomores, who are excluded from most study abroad options.

“The University came up with this amazing opportunity for students,” she said. “I don’t know of any other university that would do this for their students. And they’ve done this in such a short amount of time.”

Students will return to a new global issues living and learning program in the new Somers Hall to discuss what they learned abroad, King said. Applications are due Feb. 12.

Baxter said she was notified about the construction delays two weeks ago. Donna Scarboro, director of Summer, Special and International Programs, said she put together the study abroad option in about 10 days, after getting the green light from Baxter.

Mount Vernon students were informed about the delayed Somers Hall opening last week, Baxter said. She said the University decided to announce construction delays about seven months before the original deadline for completion because there is no room for error when a residence hall opens.

“If you say a residence hall is going to be ready, it absolutely has to be there,” Baxter said.

The University recently missed the completion deadline for the new Media and Public Affairs building, forcing Academic Affairs to move more than 80 classes to new locations a week before students returned for class.

“I’m just glad we found out now,” Baxter said about delays at Mount Vernon. “We were ahead of this one and could plan for it.”

The Hatchet has disabled comments on our website. Learn more.