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October 12, 2015

Stuart fire relocates philosophy department, core tutoring program

Two programs in Stuart Hall are still displaced after a fire broke out on the second floor during the first day of Orientation Week, damaging portions of the philosophy department and displacing the College Core Tutors Program (CCTP).

The UCPD incident report filed at 9:28 a.m. on Sunday, September 20 noted that fire and smoke were seen on the second floor of Stuart. The Chicago Fire Department (CFD) extinguished the fire and reported no injuries. Commander Curtis Hudson told the Chicago Tribune that the fire officially went out at around 10:30 a.m. 

According to philosophy department chair Gabriel Lear, the fire originated from a paper shredder in a faculty common room. She said that the paper shredder was not in use at the time of the fire.

“The paper shredder has been plugged in for, I don’t know, months, years, just sort of at stand-by,” she said. “But for some reason the motor overheated.”

Despite the CFD’s quick response, the fire severely damaged certain areas of the philosophy department.

“The shredder was in a little vestibule...so it’s totally destroyed, and the hallway is totally destroyed,” Lear said.

Most of the damage, she added, came from smoke, soot, and water from the firefighters’ efforts, as well as the windows and doors they had to break down to extinguish the fire. Despite the damage, most of the professors’ books and papers are salvageable, as is the data from their computers.

As a result of the damage, the philosophy department and the CCTP have been forced to temporarily relocate. Although some of the philosophy faculty have offices in Rosenwald that were unaffected by the fire, the majority of the department has relocated to McGiffert House, located above the Seminary Co-Op and Plein Air Café. Lear estimates the department will be able to move back into Stuart Hall before the end of the quarter.

The CCTP has temporarily relocated its tutoring services from the North Reading Room in Arley D. Cathey Learning Center to Cobb Hall. On October 2, Dean of Students in the College John “Jay” Ellison notified students of the CCTP’s location change in an e-mail, saying that the tutoring services will be held in Cobb for the rest of October. Lear described the damages to the North Reading Room as less severe than those suffered by the philosophy department.

Since the fire occurred just before the start of Orientation Week, professors in the philosophy department were left with little time to reorganize before the start of the school year. Given limited access to their offices and materials because the CFD was required to clean them of soot, professors were only allowed to take a few books.

“It’s a little disorienting,” Lear said. “I had been hand-writing all these notes and laying out our syllabus and just left it on the desk that Friday afternoon and I couldn’t get to any of it.”

Lear commended the University for its swift action in handling the situation, particularly the Office of Risk Management.

“We’re still working out some kinks, but we’re definitely moving in the right direction,” she said.

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