Ceiling portions collapse in Newcomb Hall

Newcomb 122 was taken offline for days after one-third of the ceiling fell


Shauna Muckle

The exposed ceiling on the left side of Newcomb 122 on Dec. 1. The left portion will remain exposed until the ceiling gets fully replaced over winter break.

Shauna Muckle, Editor-in-Chief

Students and professors with classes in Newcomb 122 learned they’d have to shift to a new location temporarily on Thursday, Dec. 1. The reason: A full third of the classroom’s ceiling, plus some panels on a different portion, had collapsed in the middle of the night.

Hours after the incident, one-third of Newcomb 122’s ceiling was left completely exposed, with wiring and cement visible above. Panels from the middle third of the ceiling were also missing, though the grid that holds the panels up remained attached.

Tom Kalasky, executive director of University Facilities, said his department already knows what went wrong. Newcomb Hall was last renovated in 2009, and wood trim was attached to the ceiling. The fasteners, which attach the wood trim, “failed,” causing entire portions of ceiling to fall, Kalasky said.

Kalasky said the incident was discovered by a custodian near 2 a.m. and was addressed by Facilities workers around 6 a.m. Dec. 1. He said that while it’s fortunate that the incident happened while the classroom was unoccupied, occupants would have heard warning signs before the panels fell.

“If it was during normal class hours, my sense is you would hear something, you would see something before failure,” Kalasky said. “It wasn’t as if it was a bolt of lightning and just instantaneous.”

Newcomb 116, 120 and 122 were all taken offline Dec. 1. so that Facilities could inspect each ceiling. The three classrooms were renovated at the same time and use similar materials, Kalasky said. Facilities staff found no issues in Newcomb 120, while Newcomb 116 and Newcomb 122 had fasteners replaced as a remedial measure. 

A few panels were also missing from the middle portion of ceiling in Newcomb 122. Those panels and the ceiling’s fasteners were replaced by the next week. (Shauna Muckle)

Newcomb 116 was taken offline until Monday, Dec. 5. Meanwhile, Newcomb 122 came online Tuesday, Dec. 6, with one-third of the ceiling left exposed. That portion will have its paneling replaced over winter break, Kalasky said.

“We have no reason to believe that this is systemic and that we’re going to see more failures,” Kalasky said.

The ceiling collapse in Newcomb echoes an incident that happened in Nuestro Hogar Latino, a student theme house, in February 2021. Then, the ceiling collapsed in a bedroom while the occupant, Angie Gallegos, ’23, was studying in the room. Gallegos said at the time that she heard a creak in the wall before the ceiling collapsed. She wasn’t injured, but some of her belongings, including a laptop, were destroyed.

Facilities replaced that drywall ceiling after the incident. But Kalasky said the ceiling collapse in Newcomb is different because the ceiling was built with different materials and at a different time period. It’s also less clear what caused the “failure of materials” in Nuestro Hogar Latino, Kalasky said.

“This one, it was clear what failed. It was the fasteners that failed,” he said. “They’re two different incidents. The only real similarity is that they were ceilings.”

Four classes take place in Newcomb 122: three history classes and a journalism course. Students in JOUR 301: Law and Communications said the busted ceiling was another wrinkle during a chaotic time.

“When we found out about this, it was the same day we found out about the bomb threat, so it was a really hectic day,” Fraley Williams, ’24, said.

Jack Hunter, ’24, said he’s relieved about the timing of the incident.

“I sit right near it, so I’m just thinking about, ‘What if it happened while I was in class?’” he said. “That would be kind of scary.”

Williams and Hunter agreed that they’re not worried something similar will happen in their other classes. Still, the exposed ceiling in Newcomb 122 is an eyesore, Hunter said.

“I don’t really feel like anything’s going to happen to it in its current state, but I do feel like it’s a little concerning that we have class in here and a third of the ceiling looks like that,” Hunter said. “It does look a little sketchy.”