Nearing the End?

Q-RAC Damage Report Arrives, But Gym May Remain Closed

First it was two weeks. Then another two, and another two, and the water damaged Quadrangle Recrational Athletic Center Q-RAC still remains closed For some, the long wait has been down right frustrating, and many can only wonder why the three-year-old gym a staple of Quad life--will probably stay shut until next term at the earliest.

The main reason for the $24-million gym's prolonged closure has been Radcliffe President Horner's desire to decide on a comprehensive repair schedule before reopening any portion of the facility Last week. Horner finally received the long-awaited damage report upon which she expects to base her decision. But, though she now says a schedule should be worked out by next week, she adds that extensive repairs could preclude a quick reopening.

Another potential snag lies in splitting up the financial liability among the three parties involved in the Q-RAC's design and construction. A court battle to apportion responsibility could keep the building closed for years. The three parties are:

* Joseph Hoskins--The Boston architect who designed the Radcliffe facility;

* Jackson Construction Co.--The contractor assigned to build the Q-RAC according to Hoskins' specifications:


* Harvard Construction Management Department--The Harvard agency of engineers that acted as the "quality controller" in reviewing the architect's plans and supervising the building's construction.

Horner says she does not anticipate a liability dispute. "I'm sure that people aren't thrilled that they're going to have to pick up the costs, but it really hasn't become an issue in the discussions," she says, adding that Radcliffe is dealing with "people of integrity who want to take responsibility for what they've done and get it fixed."

Nevertheless, Horner acknowledges that. "If we have to go to court to lay blame, we have the capacity to do so."

For now, however, Horner is focusing on coordinating input from Hoskins, Jackson, and Construction Management, all of whom are evaluating the conclusions of the report issued by Thompson and Lichtner, the Boston consulting firm Radcliffe hired last spring The 100-page study, which has not been made public, outlines the nature and extent of the damage and offers two alternatives for fixing it.

Horner said she will pick a repair plan based on several factors, including anticipated weather conditions--unusually cold weather could delay repairs--the extent of inside and outside work, and the time and costs associated with each option.

Because Construction Management had a role in overseeing the Q-RAC through its formative stages. University officials confirmed this week Harvard will likely be forced to pay as much as one-third of the bill for repairing the gym's faults. Robert Saltonstall, the associate vice-president for operations who oversees the department, estimates that the total bill could run into the "hundreds of thousands of dollars." That figure covers just the costs to fix the cause of the leaks, and not the squash court damages they caused.

Horner is working on the presumption that Hoskins and Jackson will also share the responsibility and financial burden for fixing the gym. She explained that she has not discussed the issue of preportioning responsibility because it is not exactly clear who--if anyone made the mistakes that officials hope to remedy.

Hoskins and Jackson Construction officials have repeatedly declined comment.

"I don't want to get held up with who said what about whom and who's pointing the finger at whom." Horner says, adding that any further delays will result more from caution than foot-dragging on the part of Radcliffe.

As for the thousand Quad residents who are affected by the loss of their convenient facility, some are upset with Horner and what they perceive as her poor job in accelerating the consultant's report and setting a repair schedule. As they wait for parts of the gym to open--which Horner said should happen by the beginning of next term--they are discussing with College officials a variety of ways to compensate for the Q-RAC, some of which would draw upon the money accumulated from the non-operation of the building.

Horner contends that Radcliffe has not been negligent in considering student interests in the matter, saying that "Radcliffe and the students are on the same side of the issue...they both want the building open."

"The last thing I want to do is to have the responsible parties, who are quite willing to give us back the building, do something and then find we rushed into it and what we did is cover up a problem that in another year will start appearing all over again." Horner said, adding. "That's just foolish."