Massachusetts Daily Collegian

$1.4 million to renovate roof on animal research

By Ardee Napolitano

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Maria Uminski/Collegian

With the construction of the Commonwealth Honors College development, it’s not only students being considered, but animals too.

The University of Massachusetts has allotted $1.4 million to soundproof an animal research building near the ongoing Commonwealth College construction site. UMass spokesperson Ed Blaguszewski said the project, which started about a year and a half ago, has been completed last month.

The renovations, which include new roof for the building, are needed to keep vibrations coming from the construction site from disturbing or killing animals housed for University experiments and research, like mice, he said.

“If the noise and vibration were allowed to enter the building even before the construction began, the experiments could not have continued, and the animals could not have functioned anymore as research subjects,” Blaguszewski said.

The Daily Hampshire Gazette reported on March 26 the unnamed building hosting the animal research is located just north of Tobin Hall. Still, Blaguszewski refused to confirm the information for fear of “terrorist attacks” by animal rights groups and other activist organizations.

“Fortunately, there hasn’t been an act of violence in this campus, but there’s certainly documentation that many of those cases have occurred across the country,” he said.

There are five other animal research facilities on campus, he added, but he also refused to name and locate them. He also refused to identify what other animals are contained in the buildings.

Blaguszewski said the budget allotted for this building is a “relatively small percentage of the construction budget,” and that funds came from outside sources such as the National Institutes of Health.

“When we evaluated the project, we knew that this was something that was needed to be done,” Blaguszewski said. “This is a modest, important and required investment.”

Still, he said, it may affect tuition rates in the long run.

Blaguszewski said during the siting process of the Commonwealth College, which costs $186.5 million, the University agreed that it is most cost efficient to start the construction in its current location, even though it may affect operations in the animal research facility. The only other option, he said, was to place the construction past Sylvan Residential Area and expand the campus northward, which would have required the University to allot more money for extending electric, water and gas lines.

Blaguszewski said federal law requires major research universities to ensure that the environments in which experiments are done to be safe to the well being of the animals. Because of that, he said that soundproofing the building is mandatory, and not doing so would have been illegal.

According to Blaguszewski, the project is essential to maintain scientific research on campus, and said it is a fair move by the University.

“Investing $1.4 million in a research asset in the University is part of collateral constructions. It is not unusual, it is not atypical and it is good construction practice,” said Blaguszewski.

On the other hand, students have expressed reservations regarding the project. Danielle Paonessa, a hospitality and tourism management junior at UMass, said that the project is a “waste of money.”

“It’s going to end up making our tuition even higher for years to come, even though I’m a junior and I only have one year left,” she said.

Paonessa said although the renovations are required to maintain the animals’ welfare, the University has not been prioritizing its projects resourcefully.

“I do think that the school needs to work on their budgeting more and stop doing new projects,” she said. “We already have four projects in the making that will just make our tuition harder to pay for.”

Kelly Duhamel, junior, also has some doubts regarding the project, saying that $1 million, “sounds like a lot of money to be putting on a roof.”

Duhamel said that while the project may raise tuition, rising college costs has been a trend recently, and that she still trusts the University.

“It is pretty inevitable,” she said, “But it would be nice not to have my tuition raised and to prevent mice from dying at the same time.”

Ardee Napolitano  can be reached at [email protected]

 

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