Steps away from the front of the Speech Building on the Montclair State University campus is a formidable obstacle that has made life miserable and treacherous for students, faculty and staff: a long, large, persistent muddy puddle.
A virtually permanent fixture this winter, it has been the bane for the well-dressed fashion majors who often pass it to enter the Speech Building where their major is housed, as well as for the faculty and staff who have to traverse it to get inside.
Dr. Marylou Naumoff, a communication and media arts professor, teaches two classes in the Speech Building. “I find it to be more frightening when it’s frozen,” she said. “There was one time when I had an Ice Capades moment.” She motioned with her hands and feet, demonstrating how she lost her balance on the muddy ice.
The puddle began to be a problem after the season’s first snowstorm on Friday Jan. 22, which continued into the weekend. Following that storm, temperatures rose and the snow began to melt. This process created the puddle in the main pathway to the Speech Building. A few rainfalls in the following weeks contributed to the problem.
On Feb. 9, the blockage began to disappear, and some students were able to walk through the path, although the mud was still present. The puddle returned in full force, however, on Feb. 16.
The week of Feb. 22 started dry, but then it rained on Tuesday. The puddle returned on Wednesday after consistent rainfall.
March brought warm weather and rain. The puddle is no longer is as big as it once was, but there is still a patch of mud in front of the building’s entrance.
Many students and professors that frequent to the building are frustrated with the state of the path.
Christy Marabello, a junior communication and media arts major, recalls the puddle being there since the beginning of the semester. “I get really frustrated seeing the puddle basically paying rent to stay in front of that building,” she said.
The Speech Building is home to Howard Fox Theater and two classrooms, and the downstairs of the building houses the Fashion Studies department. The Speech Building connects to Life Hall downstairs through the fashion rooms and then connects to Memorial Auditorium.
To avoid the puddle, especially when it is frozen, people enter the Speech Building by either walking on a path towards the Center for Environmental and Life Sciences to the left or a path towards Memorial Auditorium and Life Hall to the right.
Many people dress to impress on campus, especially fashion studies majors who frequent this area of campus. Natalie Diver, a junior fashion studies major, goes to the building three times a week. “I get very annoyed when I see the puddle, because I have to go so out of my way to walk around it,” she said.
In addition to being inconvenient to those around the Speech Building, the puddle may also detract from the university appearance, especially to prospective students and their families, who often visit Montclair State in the spring. This time of year in particular is a crucial time period for campus visits, because students are deciding which school they are going to.
Naumoff is concerned that students and parents may see the mud as a hazard. “I think it may have a negative impact on the impression of the school,” she said.
There is construction in front of Memorial Auditorium, and some think that is the cause of the hole. Many predict that water congregates to this spot because the path is not paved properly.
Some students believe there are possible solutions to preventing the puddle. “Unfortunately, it’s a result of the mass amount of construction happening in that area of campus and is a natural cause,” said Marabello. “However, I feel like they can definitely help in some way. Maybe put a tarp down or something to dry the mud so that students can walk over without ruining their shoes.”
University Facilities could not be reached for comment regarding the puddle.
This puddle may appear again if the inconsistent weather continues. Hopefully, April showers will not bring the puddle back to life.