Henley Castleman

(Rock Hill, S.C.) — The Winthrop University campus is receiving a face lift this semester, with a number of construction projects underway. The work is nearly complete at Thurmond Hall, but the school’s administration plans to continue with other campus renovations next year.

“Right now we don’t have a whole lot of construction going on around campus. If you’ve been on campus recently you can see that we were working on the roof at Thurmond and the roof at Byrnes (Auditorium). We had a few things going on this summer too,” said Wes Love, a project engineer with Winthrop’s facilities management.

He said the roof of Thurmond was under construction due to numerous leaks that eventually seeped into a number of classrooms.

“I remember having class on the top floor and the ceiling wasn’t looking too good, so I think that was a good thing to focus on at first,” said junior Annika Seppela, a human development and family studies major from Greenville, S.C.

The construction likely created conflicts for many students and faculty, because a number of classrooms and offices in the business school are located on the fifth (and top) floor of Thurmond Hall.

“We absolutely take class schedules into account,” said Love.

“Various times we have had to do construction projects in classroom buildings during school. They’re incredibly difficult because they do disrupt class, so we always take that into account. When we’re building a new building, you have to deal with the contractor and their schedule. So things might not be so optimal.”

A number of students expressed frustration about how the construction changed the flow of traffic on campus.

“It has been quite an inconvenience, mostly with the foot traffic on campus. There are these walkways you can’t go on,” said Seppela. “It’s just a little inconvenient and confusing at first, but I guess we all got used to it after a while.”

Love said many of the current projects are need-based, such as roof repairs or the installation of fire sprinklers, and the timing of those projects depend solely on how soon they can be funded.

Love was involved with the construction of both the West Center and the DiGiorgio Campus Center, which he said took over 10 years to complete.

“Larger projects like the West Center is a team effort from the administration and our department. Those kind of things, the yes or no, comes from the administration,” he said.

“There is also some influence from the state of South Carolina. It’s technically state property and some amount of it would be state funding,” said Love. “When you do a bigger project like a new building, the state has as much influence as we do.”

Kelly Cousins, a senior biology major from Summerville, S.C., spends her weekends working as a Winthrop student ambassador, which help recruit prospective students by giving tours and representing the university at open houses. She said the construction may have an impact on the school’s ability to recruit.

“It’s really hard when I want to talk about how beautiful the campus is, I can say that, but as soon as you walk outside of admissions, the first taste of their Winthrop experience is Byrnes and Thurmond, which had the construction going on,” said Cousins.

“I would always rush past there,” she said. “Certain sidewalks are cut off. One of the things that we have to do is use sidewalks and cross walks, so we actually removed one of our tour routes.”

For now, things on campus are returning to normal just in time for the end of the semester, but the construction will soon begin again.

Love said future projects include retouching classroom walls in Thurmond Hall, to repair the plaster and get the rooms “looking fresh,” and repairing some of the water damage from the leaking roof.

For Byrnes Auditorium, Love said the plan is to remove and relocate about 500 seats, install an elevator and add handicap ramps and additional restrooms.

“That would be very beneficial. It’s a huge auditorium and that is really nice, but the whole back (of the auditorium) never tends to be full, even for big events,” said Cousins.

In the distant future, Love said school officials hope to add a new building on campus, which could possibly serve as a concert venue.

However, he said, the administration must first figure out where the building would go and define how the space would be used.