Students, alumni petition for renovation, modernization of Music building

Alexa Oslowski

A steam leak at the Music building back in November was one of the factors that led to the creation of the petition.

by Jeanette Giovanniello, Staff Writer

A petition to modernize the Music building emerged on Nov. 22, yielding nearly 1,400 signatures from students, faculty and alumni. 

The petition calls for the renovation of the outdated building to stop alleged health hazards.

The demand for change was sparked by a pipe rupture that occurred in the building on Nov. 16. A broken water pipe in the building’s basement sent hot steam throughout the vents, prompting an evacuation.

The petition was started by Charles Ritter, a global composition music student at SDSU. He previously worked as the production coordinator for SDSU Music and Dance.

According to an email from Ritter, petitioners include several faculty and staff members, families of students and alumni from as far back as the 70s, who “have seen no significant upgrade since their attendance of the school.”

Dozens of comments left by petitioners mention issues such as sewage leaks, flooding and mold. Music recording junior Javier Piñón said while the musty smell was always present within the building, the odor has gotten “substantially worse” since the pipe rupture. 

“Before, depending on where you’d go in the basement, some spots smelled worse than others,” Piñón said. “Definitely nothing as present as it has been these past few weeks.”

He said this has prevented students from practicing within the building, particularly vocalists and musicians with wind instruments. 

“You physically cannot be there for an extended period of time,” Piñón said. ”You feel it in your breathing. If you can’t breathe, then you can’t practice well. If we’re in an area where we feel our lungs will get affected, people are hesitant, because that’s their career.”

SDSU Environmental Health Services sent an email stating the building is mold free, but some students are not convinced, Piñón said. Music education senior Melody Ebner said the class takes air breaks due to the musty smell that disrupts students’ ability to rehearse or sit through lessons.

“Since the pipe burst they’ve fanned it out, but it just doesn’t feel good,” Ebner said. “The teachers take a break for us to get fresh air. It smells so bad there, but it’s really pungent in the basement.”

The building’s elevator was also mentioned in the petition’s comments. Piñón said the elevator has a hole in the floor from the elevator falling years ago. While the hole is now covered by plating, the elevator still gets stuck frequently. 

Other petitioners have pointed out the facility’s lack of updated technology, such as classrooms that still have chalkboards and walls that are not soundproofed. 

“I have friends that go to SDSU that aren’t music majors, and they’ve never seen chalkboards,” Ebner said. “Why is my education so different than yours when we’re paying the same?”

The issues have been present for years, said Edner, who works in the San Diego music business with SDSU music alumni. The unchanging conditions lead to some students to question the need for the new $5 million ENS field that lies directly parallel to the Music building. 

“The field built next door was such an insult to everybody,” Piñón said. “Nobody asked for that, or needed it. The building that’s literally right next to it is falling apart.”

Complaints towards other SDSU facilities have arisen this semester, particularly within student housing. Students living in University Towers described flooding issues, and those living in Aztec Corner started a petition over their living conditions. Last semester, a roofing project in the Professional Studies and Fine Arts building led to health complaints from occupants due to the presence of dangerous fumes.

“We just don’t feel appreciated, amongst needing a safe and up to date environment,” Ebner said. “We’re still there for the sporting events and singing the national anthem for these events. We’re important when you need us, but otherwise, we’re on the back burner.”

SDSU responded to the petition in an email and said the odor in the music building basement was linked to flooding after the SDG&E power outage that occurred on Nov. 12.

“After power was restored to campus and while returning steam services to (the music building), a mechanical issue caused the fire sprinkler to malfunction,” the school said. “This resulted in water being released into the mechanical room located in the basement level of the Music Building.”

The university said the basement’s moisture and odor issues are being addressed and monitored by Facilities Services and Environmental Health & Safety.

The school has also tested the air quality levels, ensuring the building is safe.

“On Nov. 25, the SDSU team commissioned third-party industrial hygiene tests to ensure that the air quality in the basement of the Music building were within safe and normal levels. Those test results have come back indicating there are no elevated mold counts,” the university said.


A previous version of this story had a photo caption that incorrectly stated a gas pipe rupture instead of a stream leak. The story also said the elevator permit was expired but it is not and was last inspected in October 2019 while being in full compliance with current regulations, according to university officials. The Daily Aztec regrets this error.