Part 3: A Glimpse Inside Weeks Hall

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Characteristic light brown bricks, silver letters, and Texas Tech University’s signature Spanish renaissance-theme carved above the main entrance, it looks like a typical building on campus.

But instead of being filled with students, Weeks Hall at the front of campus off University Avenue is filled with trash, dust, broken glass and empty dorm rooms.

Weeks-Hallway

Weeks Hall’s hallways are filled with debris and trash from the last 20 years, and very few step foot in the building now.

It has been shuttered for more than 20 years, and few people have seen the inside of the former residence hall, thanks to its closure over safety issues.

Hub reporters were the first people to legally step foot inside the dusty building in several months, according to Lonnie Evans, director for Tech Building Maintenance and Construction.

Evans said that not even his crew from BMC had been inside the building lately because the building is so disused.

The only people to step foot in the building are the University Police Department’s SWAT team, which occasionally practices shooting drills in the building. No one else has access to the building.

Evans said the building is completely disconnected from plumbing, electricity and heating, and remains unused and locked at all times. Thanks to issues such as asbestos and mold, he said, the building is dangerous and has been abandoned since the early 1990s.

According to Evans, the building remains vacant thanks to similar funding issues that Doak Hall has. The Board of Regents would have to approve funding, he said, for changes to the building that would be upwards of tens of millions of dollars.

Evans estimated that the building would cost approximately $50 to $55 million to renovate, demolish, or abate the asbestos in the building – money that Evans said would be better suited for building facilities for research or teaching, such as the new petroleum engineering building currently under construction on campus.

Weeks-crime-tape

Weeks Hall remains empty because of a lack of funding – estimates to renovate the building are upwards of $50 million.

According to Evans, the asbestos in the building is located mostly in pipe insulation and underneath floor tiles, but as the building deteriorated, the ACM, or asbestos-containing materials, became a potential danger because of the likelihood to become friable or airborne.

Although asbestos is one issue that keeps the former residence hall locked up, there are other safety issues that keep the building unoccupied as well.

Paul Cotter, Texas Tech Environmental Health & Safety’s asbestos compliance manager, said there were more issues than just asbestos in the building.

“That building is an issue because of the fact that it’s been abandoned for so long,” Cotter said. “I’d be more concerned about the mold in the building than I would be about the asbestos in the building.”

Mark McVay, associate director for housing facilities at Tech, was responsible for shutting the building down in 1991.

Weeks-empty

Weeks Hall’s lobby, which is filled with trash left by people sneaking into the building, and old promotional materials from University Student Housing.

“I was responsible for disconnecting all the utilities, and basically mothballing the building,” McVay said. “And back then, our director was Dr. James Burkhalter, and he said ‘we will never open this as a residence hall again.'”

The building had several safety and health issues, McVay said, which led to its closing.

“It was un-air conditioned, (there were) asbestos issues, no parking — that was a big issue, our occupancy was down, so it didn’t hurt us to close it,” McVay said. “In fact, it helped us.”

Closing the residence hall was actually a better business decision for the university than spending money on keeping it open and functional, McVay said.

“We decreased our operating costs by not running it,” McVay said. “It was about 350 beds. It was a business decision. We had to close something down, and that one was so problematic, we just shut it down.”

Despite the building being locked for years, and unlike the architectural and safety workers who have been allowed inside Weeks Hall for study purposes, a handful of daredevils have snuck inside illegally over the years, leaving things like broken glass and dusty footprints behind.

The Texas Tech Police Department has reported 24 criminal incidences at Weeks Hall since 2001, most of which occurred inside the abandoned residence hall. Offenses against property were the most common, with many thefts committed in the empty rooms that contain mostly old housing materials.

Evans said that University Student Housing has used Weeks Hall as a storage facility for several years, leaving boxes of promotional materials and documents sitting in empty closets and atop dressers in Weeks’ old dorm rooms.

Named after the first Dean of the School of Home Economics, Margaret Watson Weeks, the residence hall opened in 1958 as a women’s dormitory. The building cost an estimated $1,730,520 to build, approximately $13 million in today’s money.

Evan Dixon contributed to this report.

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Comments

  1. I lived in Weeks and loved it there. It is so sad to see it abandoned. I do wonder why it was left so quickly that there were still Christmas decorations up and student’s belongings in some of the rooms. My son took some pictures there from the outside and you could clearly see 1992 on some items in the window. What happened? I am glad to see that it may be renovated. Again, I loved it there.

  2. Sharon Lott says:

    Thank you so much for this! I spent four years of my life in Weeks, first in Room 112, then in Room 316 to earn my Bachelors, from 1986 – 1990.
    Then I took one year off, and came back for my Masters, and I lived in Doak for one year.
    I did not complete my Masters, but, boy, if those walls could talk!
    I worked as an Office Assistant and Night Assistant while I was there. I really thought I was hot stuff lol

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