The Online Beacon

The Student News Site of Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts

The Student News Site of Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts

The Online Beacon

The Online Beacon

The Online Beacon

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Asbestos is BACK in Venable Hall!

Photo from Historic North Adams

We have all been wondering what’s happening with Venable Hall and Freel Library for a while now. Why was it closed down for work, and what does asbestos have to do with it?

According to, asbestos is a naturally fibrous material that is used in vinyl flooring, ceiling tiles, certain paints and insulation. This element was used extensively in home construction from the early 1940s through the 1970s, acting as a highly effective and inexpensive fire-retardant material and thermal and acoustic insulator.

Why does it form?

Asbestos forms in the faulting and fracturing of rocks with increased temperatures, pressures, and the presence of water.

Why did asbestos form in Venable?

We’re finding out through all the construction, that the campus of MCLA is outdated, to say the least. The steam and water lines, among other outdated internal and underground structures, are being replaced, as you have read in many emails sent by Gina Puc, Chief of Staff, recently.

Venable Hall, a building at MCLA that contains the mail room, Venable Theater and the Venable Gym, was constructed in 1958. Within that construction, mastic glue was used on all the floor tiles, and its contaminants of asbestos were discovered during a visual check up of the building’s foundation at the end of the last school year, and, in March underwent construction for a few days.

Unfortunately, asbestos has found its way back to Venable Hall this semester.

The MCLA Freel Library was previously tested for asbestos, which came back positive, as they found it in the floor tiles as well. Thus, the third floor of the library underwent construction from March 9th to June 30th. Although the top floor of the Freel Library was renovated for asbestos last semester and during the summer, it seems that only the perimeter tiles were removed, excluding the inner tiles that are still visibly eroding.

Again, unfortunately, it looks like asbestos has inhabited the Freel Library once more.

To the students of MCLA, it is natural for some to be weary of this asbestos, as some students have acting classes in the Venable Hall or play various sports in the Venable gym. You may be wondering:

What happens if I Get Exposed?

A one-time exposure to asbestos does not have any long-term effects, but repeated inhalation of asbestos fibers could increase peoples’ risks of serious diseases like mesothelioma (a type of organ cancer) and lung cancer.

Although an email was recently sent out on Monday (9/21/23) alerting students that Venable Hall will continue to be open and that there are no concerns regarding the building’s conditions and safety, there was an email, sent only to faculty, deeming Venable Hall unsafe to use.

Along with the email was an attachment of reports, sent out September 21, detailing findings of water damage in the ceiling tiles of the first floor of Venable, findings of a species of mold, a type of water loving species, and speculation of stagnant water being found. In addition to those findings, some of the floor tiles were waterlogged and popped up due to water damage, and then were recognized as asbestos.

There was also a recommendations section from July, which included that MCLA must alert the students, perform thorough disinfecting of Venable, and to remove and replace all of the ceiling tiles in the gym. Safety Solution Consultants, Inc. (SSCI) recommended that the tiles again be tested to see if the asbestos had gone away, and that Venable should be cleaned out for safety.

There was a visual inspection planned on September 18, and recorded no additional signs of the water damage, showing the “follow up cleaning was effective.” SSCI, while not on the site to address, did not observe any more health related concerns than before.

Although it is nice to hear that the building is deemed safe, it’s important that the students of MCLA get the same amount of information as faculty, and are filled in about what happens around them on campus. This issue is especially important, as it was recommended by SSCI to alert students, and it directly effects many people who spend time in Venable Hall every day. Since this release of information was not made public to students, many finding out about the asbestos removal are confused, and as a result are concerned for their health.

Sure enough, the question still stands, after the visual inspection of Freel Library, and the process of removal in Venable Hall, why does it keep coming back?

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Jackie Cohen, Staff Writer

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