A portion of plaster in room 202 of Eaton Hall came loose and fell through the ceiling over the weekend of Jan. 25 to 26, according to Director of Building Operations in Medford Jeff McKay.
There were no injuries as a result of the plaster falling, as there was nobody in the room at the time, according to McKay. He added that this incident does not indicate a lack of structural integrity in the building.
“The plaster ceiling in this room and many other areas of the building is original to the building construction dating back to 1908,” McKay wrote in an email to the Daily. “This type of failure is common in buildings with this type of construction and the approach that Tufts has taken to remediate the issue is typical in the industry.”
Once the Facilities Services Department was informed of the damage, McKay said they assessed the ceiling in its entirety and decided the best course of action was to remove all the existing plaster as an extra precaution.
“New sheetrock and new acoustical drop ceilings have been installed and the room is back in service,” McKay said. “In addition to this work, facilities crews are in the process of surveying the ceilings in the rest of the building.”
McKay explained that the damage was in the ceiling itself, unlike the decorative plaster damage that caused temporary closures in four rooms in Eaton in 2017.
John LiBassi, an administrator in the sociology department, said that he noticed the damage on the Monday morning after it occurred and immediately notified Associate Registrar Sarah Harvey.
“She had already received the information and was working to reschedule all the classes,” LiBassi said. “She was able to reassign the classrooms, and actually the room was ready to be opened up again the following Monday.”
LiBassi added that the Department of Sociology, which is housed in Eaton, has been consistently supported during issues like this.
“We’ve had some issues with the building, but I have to say that Facilities and actually the administration has been very responsive, particularly with this last incident,” LiBassi said.
Chair of the Department of Classical Studies Bruce Hitchner, whose department is also housed in Eaton Hall, explained that difficult but important decisions are constantly being made about which maintenance projects to prioritize over others.
“Deferred Maintenance at Tufts and other universities is an important priority; it is one of the crucial components of the accreditation process which each university goes through every ten years,” Hitchner wrote in an email to the Daily.
Referencing his own background in archaeology, Hitchner considered how Eaton could best be restored, rather than repaired or reconstructed.
“Prior to the additions that were made to it years ago, it was a more attractive building architecturally than it is today,” Hitchner said. “It would be useful to have some further discussion about the future of Eaton Hall particularly in view of the completion of the new [Joyce Cummings Center] in the near future.”
McKay added that Tufts actively works to maintain its historic buildings and structures.
“The safety and wellness of our students, faculty and staff are our top priorities, which is why proactive preventative maintenance is a chief concern for us. Every effort is made to identify and correct these types of failures before an event takes place,” McKay said.
Eaton Hall, formerly known as Eaton Memorial Library, used to be the primary library for the university. Its construction was funded by a $100,000 donation from Andrew Carnegie in 1904, according to a 2013 Daily article. His wife, Louise Whitfield Carnegie, decided that the building should be named after Revered Charles Henry Eaton, who had married them.
Over the years, the university’s collection grew, and by 1965, Eaton could no longer adequately serve as the only library on campus. Accordingly, construction started on a new library which opened in 1965 as Wessell Library, named after the University’s eighth president. It was later renamed Tisch Library.
Eaton now houses the Eaton Computer Lab, several classrooms and departmental offices for the Departments of Anthropology, Classical Studies, Religion, Sociology and Studies in Race, Colonialism, and Diaspora.