International House to remain open while improvements are being madeBy Jennifer Leovy
The University, after extensive consultation with the City of Chicago Fire Department, is moving forward with plans to keep International House open for both program and student residential use while building improvements are being made. A maximum of 250 students will be living in I-House this fall. Because of the construction in the building, some considerable disruption for residents is expected.
The University and the fire department have spent the last two months reviewing the I-House building, identifying fire safety improvements that will allow the building to remain open while the improvements are being made.
The work began last May after the University accepted the recommendations of the Committee on the Future of International House. In their report, the Committee urged the University to continue operations at I-House, 1414 E. 59th St., but recommended specific changes to its facility and governance. (See stories in the Chronicle on May 25 and June 8.)
According to Meredith Mack, Director of Facilities Services, the most extensive physical change will be the installation of a new fire alarm system. Mack said that Facilities Services expects to complete its review of contractors bids by the end of the month. Once the University has selected a firm, that contractor then will work with the fire department to complete the installation plan and begin the work.
Other recommendations made by the Committee, including changes to the governance and operations of I-House, are underway as well.
President Randel is appointing an interim board of governors that will oversee I-House during the next one to two years. The board will be chaired by Hank Webber, Vice President for Community Affairs, and also will include University faculty, officers and students.
Our goal is to see International House through a challenging set of operating issues, said Webber. We will be working on day-to-day operations, programming and constructionall under one roof, all at the same time.
While the I-House programming and operations continue, a faculty committee will be formed to examine the broader issues of international education and research at the University in the 21st century. Webber said he hopes the work of the faculty committee will provide the basis for a clearer understanding of the appropriate relationship between International House and the academic programs of the University. Randel and Provost Geoffrey Stone will appoint this faculty committee this fall.
To update the I-House community, Ed Turkington, Dean of Student Services and the interim director of I-House, met this month with students to discuss the more immediate changes to the buildings operations and physical structure. Turkington is overseeing I-House until a new, full-time director is appointed.
We have an unusual situation with International House in that, unlike other residence halls, we will continue to operate the building during the installation of a new fire alarm system, said Turkington.
There are going to be some genuine inconveniences living there. I wanted to make sure the residents know generally what to expect during construction next year and to make sure they understand the new residential guidelines that we are implementing on the recommendation of the fire department.
A new policy will prohibit smoking anywhere in I-House, and the existing policy prohibiting cooking and food preparation anywhere except for the I-House community kitchen will be strictly enforced. In addition, students will have to change rooms at least once during the academic year, after the contractor completes the first half of the fire alarm installation in the unoccupied rooms.
The installation of a fire alarm in I-House is expected to continue into next summer.