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Scaffolding to be partially removed in time for graduation

Mary Kate Malone | Friday, April 8, 2005

Throughout his dialogue with the administration regarding the dome re-gilding, senior class president Darrell Scott prayed at the Grotto to the Virgin Mary and asked that she be uncovered for his class’s graduation.

His prayers have been answered.

After several weeks of negotiation and student outcry, executive vice president John Affleck-Graves said Thursday that the scaffolding will be removed down to the base of the golden dome for graduation.

Work will continue on the Dome as scheduled until May 5, Affleck-Graves said. At that time, the scaffolding will be taken down to the base of the dome itself, a process that – barring any inclement weather – will be completed by the following Thursday and allow the Dome to be uncovered for graduation weekend. Workers will begin rebuilding the scaffolding May 14, Affleck-Graves said, and will hopefully be able to resume re-gilding on the following Thursday or Friday – bringing the time required for the entire procedure to a little over two weeks.

To ensure the re-gilding is still completed by Oct. 1, Affleck-Graves said workers will be working longer hours, especially on days when the weather is ideal.

“We still apologize that the Dome is under renovation and we appreciate the students working with us,” he said. “Though it’s not a complete reduction, we hope what we’ve done has helped.”

Scott, who has been representing his classmates throughout the ordeal, said he was elated upon hearing the news.

“This shows the University does care about our concerns,” he said. “They saw our sadness over the scaffolding and they took our concerns to heart. It’s the absolute best outcome any reasonable negotiation could achieve.”

Two weeks ago Scott and student body president Adam Istvan met with Affleck-Graves and presented a “hypothetical contract” nearly identical to the one most recently approved.

Originally, Affleck-Graves said Scott and Istvan’s plan was not feasible, since it would push the estimated completion date beyond the absolute deadline of Oct. 1, when frost will become a factor.

However, due to a miscommunication, Affleck-Graves said he thought Scott and Istvan wanted the scaffolding removed from not only the gold part of the dome but the ‘drum’ as well.

Therefore, the plan Affleck-Graves presented to the contractors incorrectly called for the scaffolding to be completely removed from the entire dome structure, not just the gold, and was consequently deemed unfeasible.

“I was under the impression [Scott and Istvan] wanted the drum to be visible as well,” Affleck-Graves said. “It was a misunderstanding. We never spoke about the actual level for the scaffolding.”

When the proposal was not accepted, students reacted to Affleck-Graves’s response with anger. Some saw the administration as turning a deaf ear to their complaints.

Behind the scenes, though, Affleck-Graves was pushing University officials in charge of the project to keep pursuing the possibility of removing the scaffolding. Unbeknownst to him, the plan he articulated Thursday would be exactly the same plan Scott and Istvan originally proposed to him.

“I wanted to be very honest,” Affleck-Graves said. “I didn’t want to mislead and allude to the possibility if it wasn’t going to happen. But we knew all along we were going to push the contractors as hard as we could.”

Meanwhile, Scott and Istvan – though still hoping for the removal of the scaffolding – were pursuing alternative plans that would attempt to compensate for the scaffolding-covered Dome.

“We were discussing possibilities that would help shift the tide and would help to show that the University does care about the students,” Scott said.

Scott said when he was pleasantly surprised when told his original plan had been approved.

“Now the seniors can take a picture on graduation day with Our Lady unscaffolded and the Dome glistening,” Scott said.

Seniors shared in Scott’s elation.

“It’s very exciting. I think it’s a wonderful gesture,” senior Laura Hammond said. “Usually what the University says is final, so I appreciate them compromising.”

Senior Casey Rotella said it is unfortunate more cannot be done.

“I wish they could take [the scaffolding] all down,” she said. “Our class has gone through a lot, but at least [the administration is] listening to us.”

Affleck-Graves said he was pleased constructive dialogue was able to achieve an agreement that will help calm students’ worries.

“I want the senior class to know that their representatives have represented them in a very, very professional way,” Affleck-Graves said. “The administration is always trying to do the best it can for its students, sometimes we are just faced with difficult choices.”