PSFA debacle prompts de la Torre to improve university communications

by Bella Ross, News Editor

President Adela de la Torre acknowledged what she described as the failure of San Diego State’s communications department to nimbly and transparently respond to issues in a campus-wide email Tuesday, citing the closure of the Professional Studies and Fine Arts building due to noxious odors as one of many examples of this issue.

“I doubt that even the most optimistic individuals on this campus have failed to notice the cries of frustration related to the uncertainty surrounding the PSFA Building,” de la Torre said in the email.

“I want to acknowledge that the current state of communication reflects a culture that we are trying to change.”

De la Torre said moving forward, the university will take the approach of always communicating what they do and don’t know about a situation. This includes weekly updates of a webpage dedicated to the PSFA closure.

The Strategic Communications and Public Affairs department will also become the centralized source for “high stakes and time-sensitive communication,” avoiding a situation where some departments have information that others don’t. The department will also move to communicate time-sensitive information through a variety of means.

The email comes about three weeks after university officials referred to their communications about the closure of the PSFA building as a “failure” in an open forum.

An additional campus-wide email sent by Strategic Communications and Public Affairs said the university is working with a third-party firm to address concerns voiced by SDSU community members at two open forums at in early April. In addition to air monitoring, testing is being performed on “mold, asbestos, fiberglass, carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide, humidity and overall building comfort.”

The email offered impacted faculty and staff with three options for relocation, one permitting them to move back into PSFA after testing has been completed and another allowing them to remain relocated. Temporary workspaces are being established for some PSFA faculty and staff, freeing up offices in Adams Humanities for those in need of one.

Since the odors began, 23 people have filed complaints with the university about health problems possibly related to the noxious fumes from the roof project — 22 from faculty and staff and one from a student.

“Our students, faculty, and staff have suffered pain due to a lack of nimble and transparent responses and organizational structures that challenge our ability to provide timely and needed information,” de la Torre said in the email.

A webpage about the closure said air monitoring has continued and that the university is preparing for the release of their final report on the odors.

Editor’s Note: A previous version of this story incorrectly said 223 people had filed complaints against the university instead of 23. The Daily Aztec regrets this error.