Feeling Trapped?

Carl Brooks

Join Mary Stevenson. A mishap in renovations last week left her so mad she emailed the entire UMass Boston Administration after getting glued to the floor in Wheatley Hall. That’s right. Glued to the floor.

Mary Huff Stevenson, Professor of Economics, walked into her Economics of Metropolitan Areas class on Wednesday evening to find that contractors had removed all of the heavy duty plastic floor tiling, leaving behind a sea of incredibly strong glue.

Uncertain about the potency of the glue, she entered the classroom to write out instructions on the blackboard and discovered that she was unable to move her feet.

Floor tile is glued down with a super-strong epoxy that stays tacky long after it has been exposed to the air. When Dr. Stevenson put her weight on the glue for just a few minutes, her shoes bonded to the floor, leaving her unable to move her legs.

“I managed to wrench myself free with great difficulty,” recounted Stevenson, “I couldn’t stay still; wherever I walked it made this horrible tearing sound.”

“I wound up perched on a desk.” Dr. Stevenson says that some students actually put their possessions in the mess. Dr. Stevenson was so angry about the state the classroom had been left in that when she e-mailed Customer Service to Complain, she cc’ed the potent note to everybody in the Administration Building, including the chancellor and the provost.

The e-mail read in part, “Earlier today I taught a 2 1/2 hour class in a room (W-1-53) that was more suitable as a stage set for a slapstick comedy than as a university classroom. The floor covering in this room and several adjacent ones had been removed, exposing a layer of glue that was remarkable for its adhesive strength. When I stood in the same spot for a few moments to write on the blackboard, I became glued to the floor, and was able to free myself only with great effort. When I adopted a more peripatetic style to avoid this fate, there were loud ripping sounds every time I took a step. I was not amused, nor were my students, who found it quite distracting.

“I try to maintain some dignity when I teach, but it is impossible to do so when one has been reduced to a sight gag worthy of a Laurel & Hardy movie. I am requesting that the conditions I have described be remedied before the class meets again next Wednesday. I do not think it is unreasonable to ask for a classroom floor that would adhere to the local building codes rather than to the sole of my shoe.”

The response was swift, doubtless spurred on by a few choice phone calls this paper was not privy to, and by Thursday all the glue had been removed and the floor cleaned.

“Basically, it was a misunderstanding with the contractors” said an apologetic David Anderson, Director of Facilities services. “They did [the tile removal] in two parts. They basically took up the tile and left the glue for the next day.” The contractors are in the process of renovating a good bit of Wheatley hall, repainting and reflooring much of the first floor. Anderson explains, “They cleaned it all up and we’ve made sure this won’t happen again. They know. And we’re very sorry for the trouble.”

Dr. Stevenson was incredulous that a potentially dangerous mess could have been left as it was, “These are pretty heavily used classrooms,” she said, adding, “I don’t think it was very pleasant for the students. I only see them once a week and I teach a two and a half hour class.

Dr. Stevenson wonders about other snared students and staff, “My impression is that other classes were affected. If nobody else complained, that’s a great shame.”

A few days after the incident, Dr. Stevenson received an apology from the architect in charge of the renovation project.