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NDSP protects Dome from curious climbers

Amanda Michaels | Friday, April 22, 2005

In the latest installment of drama surrounding the regilding of the Golden Dome, the Notre Dame Security/Police initiated an all-night guard at the building’s base during the last week in a move officials said was a response to reports of students attempting to climb the scaffolding structure.

“We’re concerned that, with the warmer weather, people will be intrigued into trying climb scaffolding, which is a dangerous situation if done during the night, particularly if they had been using alcohol,” NDSP assistant director Chuck Hurley said. “This is a safety issue. We’re trying to be proactive, and keep people from getting hurt.”

Jim Lyphout, Vice President of Business Operations, said that his office – which is in charge of the regilding project – had been alerted to reports of people gaining access to the scaffolding at night. Lyphout said this prompted collaboration with NDSP to ensure “total diligence” concerning the site’s safety.

Neither Hurley nor Lyphout was aware of any students being apprehended while climbing the structure, and Jeff Shoup, director of the Office of Residence Life and Housing, would neither confirm nor deny the existence of any such cases.

Shoup did, however, say that “climbing the scaffolding would be considered very serious.”

According to on-duty officer George Heeter, the new installment consists of two NDSP officers posted in vehicles on either side of the quad-side Main Building steps, with rotating shifts over a period of 10 hours starting when the construction workers leave each night at approximately 8 p.m. Officers began these shifts April 14.

Heeter said he assumed the service would last at least until summer break, but that no schedule of dates had been released. Hurley refused to confirm any specific security detail information, citing official NDSP administrative policy. Lyphout said officials were undecided in regards to the watch’s length.

The University concerns were perhaps well-founded, as tales of daredevils who escaped the eye of NDSP and ResLife to scale the scaffolding without a mark on their bodies – or permanent records – have been circulating around the student body.

One such student, who spoke to The Observer only on the condition of anonymity for fear of University repercussions, recounted his story.

“There was a small group of us, and we climbed the scaffolding at about nine or 10 at night. We climbed all the way to the Dome so that we could touch it,” he said. “To me, it seemed like fun and it would be something I could enjoy looking back on after graduation. How many people can say they’ve touched the dome?”

The student said he did not feel that what he did was particularly dangerous, but could understand the University’s concern.

“I never felt myself in any danger, but if a drunk or careless student finds their way up

there, it would be a totally different story,” he said.

Though he realized in retrospect that the climbers were quite visible and punishment could be severe – and felt “almost certain” he would not attempt the climb again – he said the risk seemed worth it at the time.

“We could see downtown South Bend from up there and we got to actually touch the

Dome,” he said. “I got a huge adrenaline rush from sneaking all the way up and all the way down the scaffolding.”