On January 14, the University of Alberta released a statement under Emergency Information and Procedures that the Edmonton Clinic Health Academy (ECHA) and Tory Building experienced “weather-related incidents.”
In total, 20 classrooms experienced damage and the university relocated 114 classes. The university notified impacted students through email and BearTracks.
According to John Benson, a director of facility services, cold weather caused pipes to burst, which caused floods in ECHA and Tory Building. Benson said the flooding was not preventable, but a byproduct of the extreme cold.
“When cold of that magnitude infiltrates and a line freezes, unfortunately it travels along the line. At some point it has to give. It’s just physics and science.”
With a few exceptions, Benson thinks that the majority of damage from the flood will be resolved quickly.
“I’d say 90 to 95 per cent [can be] resolved quite quickly. In fact, some spaces have already been turned back.”
With his 20 years experience on campus, Benson said the concurrent accidents are “unprecedented.” According to Benson, many different teams are working together to fix the damage and find alternative classroom spaces.
“The collective effort of our trades, operations, maintenance, custodial, and utilities teams has been phenomenal. I have the highest degree of respect for the effort that everyone’s put forward to pull together through some very extreme circumstances.”
“We want as little disruption for the students in their classes as possible,” UASU vice-president (student life) says
Michael Griffiths, U of A Students’ Union (UASU) vice-president (student life), said the UASU’s biggest concern is making sure students have consistency. Griffiths mentioned that several classes have moved online temporarily due to the floods. As well, due to the floods and the Humanities Centre fire, many classes have had to move buildings entirely.
“We’re already noticing the university is quite constrained recently with their buildings and infrastructure. The floods, on top of the Humanities closure, is really squeezing what they can offer in terms of classroom delivery,” Griffiths said.
The UASU is working with and pressuring the university to quickly find alternative classrooms, Griffiths said.
“We want as little disruption for the students in their classes as possible.”
Despite unforeseeable accidents, Griffiths said it is still the university’s responsibility to provide students with a seamless academic experience.
“This should not be a yearly or a monthly thing, that we are experiencing these disruptions. The university needs to find ways to just ensure stability for students.”
UASU advocating to provincial government regarding deferred maintenance, Griffiths says
Additionally, Griffiths said the provincial government has a partial responsibility to fund the university so they can deliver services adequately. According to Griffiths, part of the UASU’s advocacy to the provincial government has been about their concerns with deferred maintenance.
When the UASU reached out to the university for the cause of the floods, they were told it was a combination of the extreme weather, gradual deferred maintenance liability, and older infrastructure.
These recent events have also changed the conversations the UASU has with the university, Griffiths said. According to Griffiths, the UASU needs to make an intentional effort to “check in with [the university] on how facilities are doing and concerns that they have.”