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SA State Quad Senators Question Asbestos Awareness

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Newly minted Student Association State Quad senators believe residents don’t know enough about asbestos despite notices provided in housing documents and dorm signage.

Cassandra Jones, a recently elected SA State Quad senator, dorm-stormed throughout Eastman Tower last month. What she reportedly found: confusion and concern over asbestos notices.

“They didn’t really feel comfortable with it,” said Jones. “They weren’t really happy that there was just a note on the back of the door as opposed to the university actually going out and saying ‘okay listen, we are aware of it; don’t worry—it’s not going to hurt you.’”

“They just got stuck with a note on the door,” said Max Sevor, Jones’ ticket mate on State Quad.

Residential Life has posted signage on doors warning of low crystallite asbestos in dorms for roughly 20 years. It asks tenants to avoid disturbing the ceiling, a policy also mentioned in the department’s housing license.

Asbestos—found in some quad ceiling insulation—is only harmful through long-term exposure. This can occur in dorms when a ceiling is disturbed. According to Residential Life, ceilings haven’t been disturbed as of late.

Ceiling disturbances are often caused by heavy digs. Some students have mistaken dried paint shavings which fall from the ceiling for asbestos debris, RAs reported.

Radwana Rinta, a State Quad resident, has noticed pieces of ceiling fall down in her State Quad dorm, often on her roommate.

“From time to time, she’ll hit her head and it will fall or something, but I don’t think it’s that bad because she seems to be okay,” said Rinta.

During a Friday interview with Residential Life, Environmental Health and Safety, and Facilities Management, John Giarrusso, associate vice president of the latter department, pitched posting a “frequently asked questions” section about asbestos on the university website.

UAlbany has pushed out asbestos information in the past. Seven years back, EH&S released an asbestos awareness guide.

With much of the university built in the 1960s and 1970s, unrenovated buildings have traces of asbestos. Most asbestos products were banned for fireproofing and insulating purposes under  the 1973 Clean Air Act.

Over the years, some quads have received abatement through renovation, most recently Colonial Quad last year. Schuyler and Beverwyck Hall on Dutch Quad are next up for large scale dorm abatement. According to Facilities Management, interior dorm renovations on State Quad have not yet been mapped out.

Fear over asbestos in housing and during abatements is often difficult to avoid, Giarrusso said. He referenced tweets by SA officials Jarrett Altilio and Anna Agnes who visited Eastman Tower last week. 

“I saw the recent tweets about it and I’m thinking, ‘Oh no, here we go again,’” said Giarrusso.

The Albany Student Press received multiple claims from RAs that housing directors called for lower staff at an early September meeting on State Quad to refrain from talking about asbestos to tenants in an effort to avoid drawing panic.

Carol Perrin, director of Residential Life, last week denied such claims.

“That’s not true,” she said. “No, I mean, we post it on the doors. We put it in the license. It’s not we’re telling them not to talk about asbestos.”

RAs agreed to talk under the condition of anonymity. As university employees, RAs in the past have requested to be quoted anonymously out of fear of termination from Residential Life.

“They thought it would be easier to keep it hush hush and not cause a panic instead of trying to educate people on the situation and risking them just not listening and causing a panic,” said a junior RA on State Quad.

Greater dialogue about asbestos would be more effective than signage, a senior State Quad RA said. She would rather have asbestos information featured prominently in the housing contract and told to tenants early on.

“Even if it was brought to their attention or they gave us the tools to say in our first [floor] meetings, ‘Hey, this is part of the contract, you can pull it up whenever you want because you can, please read it, understand it, if you have questions you can go to the RD,’” she said.

“Instead of having this ‘Oh, do we hush them when they talk about this’ because then it’s not like hiding it from you.”

RAs are told to refer questions about asbestos to higher ups according to Charles Rogers, associate director of Residential Life. With lack of professional knowledge about asbestos, this instruction is intended to prevent RAs from giving different answers.

“Again, I don’t want to put that type of pressure on an 18 or 19-year-old,” said Rogers. “I don’t think that’s their responsibility.”

UPDATE: SA passed a resolution on Wednesday calling for


Tyler A. McNeil is the current managing editor for the Albany Student Press. The Capital Region native previously served as managing editor for The Hudsonian, and as an intern for the Times Union and Capital Tonight.

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