Is Ketchum Hall overlooked?


Bleach stain on carpet in office in Ketchum from cleaning crew.

Cait Malilay, News Editor

Ketchum Hall, home to many English and Education majors, is one of the five original buildings on campus.

Despite Buffalo State College’s historical reputation of being a pioneer school for education, Ketchum Hall, occupied since 1931, suffers from degraded conditions.

“There are constant leaks in the basement and the rugs stay wet for a very long time,” said Natalie Szymanski, an assistant professor and director of the College Writing Program, Ph.D. “I know there’s been a problem with the water fountain downstairs and a lot of [dirty, orange] unfiltered water coming out of that.”

Raquel Schmidt, the chair of the department of Exceptional Education, Ph.D, and Lisa Berglund, the chair of the department of English, Ph.D, are working together to alert the administration of the building’s issues.

Schmidt pursued her undergraduate studies as a student herself in Ketchum and is saddened to see its conditions deteriorate.

“No, I would not recommend drinking from the water fountain,” Schmidt said.

Steven Shaffer, director of Buffalo State’s department of Facilities Construction and Maintenance, says that the discolored water was unsurprising because the pipes developed rust from not being in use for a course of over a year during the school’s shutdown due to the pandemic.

“Unfortunately, it has [approximately] 93-year-old pipes in the building and the plumbing both for the water and the heating system is frankly beyond its useful life and is wearing out,” he said.

Discolored water from drinking fountain in Ketchum Hall

When maintenance was informed, a plumber was sent to flush the water line, according to Shaffer, and water filters were installed to ensure that no sediment including rust iron deposits or calcium deposits are released during drinking.

The water damage from the ceiling and on the walls is still apparent in the building, and one student even addressed their concern if lead is present in the water.

“To my knowledge there is no lead paint in the building, so I am not aware of any instance where lead paint has become loosened as a result of water and filtration,” Shaffer said.

Office ceiling leak in Ketchum 101

Leaks in the basement led to mildewed carpets, which cannot be replaced due to a possible risk of asbestos, as Schmidt was told.

Shaffer says that there is some asbestos containing material within the building.

“There are instances where there’s asbestos-containing floor tile and it has been carpeted some years ago, and so when that carpeting is removed, there is the potential that tile underneath that carpeting can crack and release asbestos into the room,” he said.

Shaffer says that it’s not that it can’t be done, but that it’s expensive and time consuming. There is a process that must be done to contain the area and monitor the room to make sure that it is properly cleaned out.

Many faculty members have been questioning why there was enough funds to construct the new Science and Math Complex, with a cost of $35.5 million and to renovate the E.H. Butler Library, with a cost of $16.1 million, but not enough for Ketchum.

The problems with Ketchum have been going on for years, yet there are several plans of renovations that have been budgeted and which design planning started not too long ago.

The Classroom Building’s design plan began in January 2019 with a cost of $78 million.

Where does the money for funding the maintenance and renovations of buildings come from?

There is an operating budget to fund the maintenance staff, which comes from the State University Construction Fund, according to Shaffer.

Money is allocated based on the need of the building, and there are a number of criteria that goes into the consideration of how the budget is calculated such as how old the building is.

Ketchum Hall, Rockwell Hall, Bacon Hall, the Donald Savage Building and Campus House are the five original buildings on campus, yet the renovations of newer buildings were budgeted.

Maintenance doesn’t have a budget for each individual building, but as they perform the work orders, they purchase the products needed for the repairs.

A renovation of Ketchum, which has yet to be listed on Buffalo State’s Facilities Construction and Maintenance page, is being discussed, according to Shaffer.

“A major rehabilitation of the building is in our five-year capital plan. The building, because it’s old, really does need a thorough replacement of the plumbing system, the heating ventilation, the air conditioning, and that’s something we’re hoping to do,” he said.

This includes electrical work and removal of all the asbestos.

It’s something that Shaffer and the team are really excited to work on “once funding becomes available.”

Another difficulty, according to Shaffer, is the fact that the building is occupied.

His team is working on a plan toward moving the faculty and students to another location.

The original exterior look of the building is highly unlikely to be demolished, but its main focus on the care of Ketchum is the interior such as the sizes of the classrooms.

The Finance and Management Office of Buffalo State College has yet to comment.