Slivka construction forced to overcome setbacks

Matthew Defour

The area north of Bobb Hall resembles a battleground: scattered piles of dirt, large holes, metal barriers, loud noises and a half-standing building.

Although the future Slivka Hall, Northwestern’s newest residence hall, is not the ruins from a war, it is under attack.

On Monday morning, construction workers had to repair a chain-link fence after it was knocked down over the weekend. This sort of fence repair has been a common morning activity in recent weeks, said John Komperda, superintendent of construction for the project.

In a more serious incident, someone broke into Komperda’s on-site office on Nov. 9 and stole the building’s architectural plans.

He would not speculate about who stole the plans and said he didn’t file an official police report because no expensive items were taken.

Since the theft, Komperda said he has secured the office with a padlock and talked to University Police about being more vigilant in patrolling around the construction site.

Because no police report was filed, the university could not comment on any action it is taking to recover the prints or to find the thieves, said Charles Loebbaka, director of media relations.

At a Nov. 13 weekly construction meeting, however, administrators were not pleased upon hearing the news, Komperda said.

“The university isn’t happy these prints are floating around,” he said.

Although students have not been implicated in the fence destruction or the theft, Komperda said he questioned the intentions of the thieves because the office contained many more valuable items than the plans.

“If it was a regular criminal they would have taken any of the things laying around here — phones, stapler, clock — there’s all kinds of things they could have taken,” Komperda said.

Many students, especially those who live near the construction site, are unhappy with the noise of the construction process and Slivka Hall’s location, which was formerly a popular open area on campus.

Some students have expressed their concerns to the administration, but they said their voices aren’t being heard.

Weinberg junior Evan Levine said he wakes up in his Zeta Beta Tau bedroom to the construction din, and on his way out the front door is confronted with the half-built “eyesore.”

Levine said he told University President Henry Bienen that student concerns about building a dorm in the middle of the fraternity quads were not being considered. He said Bienen was unreceptive to his complaints.

“The main thing that is wrong is the attitude on the part of the administration toward the student body,” he said. “Students have the right to feel that decisions are made in their best interest.

Bienen said on Thursday that he looks forward to the day when there is less construction on campus, but wishes that angry students would be patient.

“I still think there are some students and faculty who think you can build a building the way you grow a mushroom — overnight in a closet,” he said.

Students are expected to move into Slivka Hall in September, but the recent incidents have tested the construction crew’s timetable, which requires early starts and late nights of construction, Bienen said. The university cannot afford the costs of maintaining Slivka unoccupied for a year, he said.

“We have to meet that deadline, and if that’s an inconvenience, I’m sorry,” Bienen said.

Komperda said the theft of the architectural plans, which contained highlighted diagrams and notes on numerous architectural changes, will not affect the completion date of the project.

“It’s not that big a setback because I keep copies of everything,” he said. “The only setback is the time that I have to spend redoing everything.”

Because students’ concerns are with the administration, not the construction company, vandalism and theft are the wrong ways to vent their frustrations, Levine said.

“The thing is going to be built anyway,” he said. “There’s no point in stealing the plans. It takes away from the validity of the actual argument.”

Komperda agreed that whoever stole the plans and knocked down the fences was using the wrong channels to effect change or make a positive statement.

“We don’t design it or decide where to put it,” Komperda said. “We just put it up once they decide it’s here.”