Passing the Buck on Q-RAC


AS THE GAME is played at Harvard Stadium today, an equally fierce battle continues to simmer along a five block stretch of Garden St, just north and a bit west of the Square. Like today's game, the Garden St contest has all the essential ingredients for a hot matchup players fans and a sports complex. What's strange about this game is that the clock has been running for eight weeks, no one has set foot inside the sports complex and both sides appear headed for a loss.

At the center of this confusing situation sits the $2.4 million Quadrangle Recreational Athletic Center (QRAC) built by Radcliffe in 1979 to give Quad students a gym closer to their Houses than the Indoor Athletic Building, which lies half mile away. Until this term, everything seemed fine with more than 1000 Quad residents taking full advantage of the Q-RAC's spacious multipurpose gym floor, fully equipped exercise room, and the College's only real racquetball courts.

Then disaster

Leaks, cracks, drainage problems and other structural flaws forced Radcliffe officials to close the facility indefinitely, citing potential safety hazards is within the gym.

Quad House masters grew enraged students yelled. President Horner wanted and the QRAC staved shut It is still closed and will remain so until recently begun repairs are completed While that preliminary for opening may not occur for another few weeks, students and University officials should be looking at the many QRAC problems that have nothing to do with digging new drains or fixing leaks but rather threaten more than just the future of a building.


Falling under the broad category of "communications," these flaws are no one's fault in particular but everyone's burden to examine. They stem from a complex arrangement between Radcliffe-which owns the building-and Harvard which operates it under the terms of a decade old merger agreement between the two institutions.

The troubles started in September of last year, when officials first detected problems in the QRAC that were more than just those that might be expected. These unusual problems darkened floors on some of the squash courts, some leaks and cracks where others had been patched should have suggested more structural problems Harvard which oversees the maintenance of all Radcliffe owned property in the Quad, patched the cracks and took note of the darkened floors.

Because they passed day to day operation of the QRAC to the Faculty of Arts and Sciences in 1979 Radcliffe officials didn't think they had to worry about QRAC's problems.

Students meanwhile continued to use the gym on a daily basis unaware that water was seeping down to the parts underground gym from the surface 40 feet above the squash courts.

Last spring. Harvard finally told Radcliffe that the problems seemed to be growing worse, more leaks and cracks, darker floors, and blisters in the hard coated floor of the exercise room--and that they probably were related to the original construction of the building. While this relaying of a message may seem to be a simple matter it represented more than just a simple phone call between University Hall and Fay House Radcliffe headquarters. Because the problems were not of a nature that regular maintenance could handle. Harvard gave to Radcliffe jurisdiction over the developing problems.

AT THAT POINT new players arrived Radcliffe called in an outside consultant to find out what was wrong and how to fix it, but told the consultant to wait until the summer to do his testing so as not to disrupt use of the gym. Horner then told Harvard's QRAC Management Committee about the problems. She also told President Bok and Dean Rosovsky both of whom sit on the joint committee that decides matters affecting the two institutions. Everyone agreed to have the consultants go ahead with the testing and work under the presumption that any repairs would be completed before the current academic year got underway. Obviously things didn't exactly work as planned.

Last the weather delayed testing planned for the summer. It was just completed last month. And then the consultants needed more time than they expected to finish their damage report, which they ultimately submitted six weeks late. Horner had pledged not to take any vacation on the gym until she received the report so the QRAC remained closed.

At the Quad, however, there was plenty of talk about how Horner had mismanaged the situation and how student interests were being ignored. All Quad residents knew was that the gym was closed and that the Quad had lost what many of them felt was one of its few saving graces. Moreover, Quad masters were upset because they say no one from Radcliffe cared enough to tell them that the gym was closed. The first word they got was in June.

Tempers flared, but Horner remained firm While she admits that she might have opened undamaged parts of the gym last month if she knew the report would have been delayed, she maintains that she fulfilled her contractual obligations in the matter, which indeed she did All she was required to do was tell the head of the Q-RAC Management Committee. Assistant Dean of the College Thomas A Dingman '67 It was up to him to inform the masters of any problems. And Horner did meet with student representatives of the Quad Houses--upon their request--to give them a status report What the students and masters still say, however is that Horner could have shown a little more initiative in explaining things to them, and in applying pressure for a more rapid completion of the damage report on which the whole affair hinged.

Perhaps they are right Horner might have done more than she did to demonstrate her concern. She could have offered to help students secure compensation for the loss of the gym which they have been attempting to do through the Harvard committee over the past few weeks by relocating some of the QRAC's weight equipment and getting hold of funds accumulated through the building's non-operation But realistically. Horner feels, it was not her responsibility to deal with any communications gaps that may have arisen when Dingman or others at the Harvard end of things failed to advertise the QRAC saga.

"It's never been entirely clear to me who was responsible to do what," one College official understated recently.

All questions of liability have not been resolved Although Radcliffe has no plans to assume any financial role in paying for the gym's repairs, there still exists the possibility of a legal battle between those involved with the QRAC's construction At the moment, however, the parties seem to be cooperating.

So it appears that the Q-RAC and any student interests that may have been trampled are victims more of a complex administrative jumble than anyone's malicious actions or lack thereof. As Horner says, it is ridiculous for anyone to believe that it is in Radcliffe's interest to keep the gym closed What would be constructive is for Horner and Harvard to take a hard look at their respective roles in Radcliffe-owned buildings, so that students who live in and use them never again fall through cracks that might develop in their structures.