By Mani Thangadurai
To answer the question of FSC’s readiness to deal with extreme weather conditions, we need to consider a myriad of factors ranging from the design of the campus to the history and safety record.
As students of Florida Southern College we are all very fortunate to be studying and (in some cases!) living at a campus which has been rated in 2011 and 2012 as the most beautiful in the entire country. The history and significance surrounding the architecture has led the campus to be declared as a National Historic Landmark in 2012 and an endangered cultural site by the World Monument Fund.
However, living in Florida comes with an added risk of being affected by potentially dangerous weather conditions. Especially since Lakeland isn’t too far away from the Gulf Coast, there is always some potential for the campus and the city itself to be affected by any tropical storms or even tornadoes and hurricanes, which would batter the Gulf Coast.
There is simply no telling when a severe event might take place and what might happen, and it is imperative that as civilians we are all prepared for any inevitability.
This is in light of the recent Tropical Storm Hermine, which had been temporarily upgraded to a Hurricane, and the damage done to many areas of Florida including nearby Hillsborough and Pasco Counties totaled hundreds of millions of dollars, never mind the sad loss of one life in Marion County.
So we must take a critical approach to this and ask ourselves if Florida Southern College truly is prepared to withstand the effects of extreme weather conditions.
In my opinion, as much as it pains me to say this, the college has not quite done enough to truly equip itself for a possible weather calamity.
There is no doubt that Frank Lloyd Wright is one of the most legendary architects of all time, and he has most certainly left his impact on the campus with the aesthetic and acoustic quality of his buildings. Sadly though, in terms of the workmanship and his own ideas, he was probably more of an artist than an artisan.
His desire to use the local sand and iron rods as part of the construction and reinforcement of a majority of his buildings led to the buildings themselves suffering from the effects of erosion, and a great amount of money is now being spent just to restore those buildings.
In addition, with buildings such as the Polk Science Building and the Ordway Building being prone to regular leakages and sandbagging, questions must rightfully be asked about the structural soundness of the buildings in question, and whether or not they can withstand prolonged periods of heavy rain. And let’s not forget the impact that heavy precipitation can have on many buildings on the inside, including increased occurrences of mold and mildew on internal walls.
With the campus being constructed on a sloping site in particular, more could and should have been done to reinforce the buildings and use the site to the advantage of those buildings in question.
In addition, what seems apparent is that during the construction of the campus buildings very little attention seems to have been paid to the possibility of actually constructing a safety building or a large common area, preferably in the center of campus, where many students can gather and take refuge.
With the water table in Florida being quite high, it is impractical and impossible to construct a basement bunker, but surely there could have been a large safe building built into the slope, a little like the Wesley and Nicholas residence halls.
A recent safety drill that was conducted on campus focused on making sure that students and staff knew what to do and where to go in case of a possible tornado. From my talks with people who were a part of the drill, they were instructed to leave their rooms and take refuge in restrooms or stairwells or any place where they were away from external windows.
Such places might provide some respite, but can prove to be very problematic in the event of any sudden occurrence like a tornado, which can rip off almost any building. In many of the buildings on campus, such ‘safe areas’ are few and far between.
It’s hard to say what could be done now to improve the situation, but I would like to see more work being done for a start to try and solve some structural and drainage problems, which have affected many of the campus buildings. This will hopefully be done as a part of the restoration efforts currently taking place.
In addition, it is high time that FSC considers actually closing its doors on days when travelling to the college would be very risky for students and staff combined
If that could perhaps mean scrapping the Fall Break, it could be a step in the right direction in order to let everyone know that their health and safety is, and always will be, the first priority over the functioning of college activities.