Two years after the walkway collapse that killed Columbia firefighter Bruce Britt, facilities for graduate student living and childcare remain lost in the wake of University Village’s demolition..
Lt. Britt, 48, died while he and other firefighters responded to a report of a collapsed roof at the school-owned apartment complex on Providence Road on February 22, 2014. A report from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health released last year said that the second-story concrete walkway Lt. Britt walked on broke from underneath him, sending him to the sidewalk. The walkway detached from the wall moments later, crushing him beneath it.
The University announced less than a month later it would shut down and demolish University Village, and the attached Student Parent Center daycare. The apartment complex had a history of structural concerns, dating back as early as a 2008 architect’s inspection. The school helped relocate the residents, including moving into vacancies in other school-sponsored housing off-campus, but has so far not re-opened a child care center for students with children.
Eric Scott, an English PhD candidate at MU, and co-chair of the Graduate Student Labor Union, remembered hearing about the walkway collapse at University Village during his second semester at the school. He called what happened to Lt. Britt a “tragedy,” and told ABC 17 News the loss of hundreds of affordable living options for working graduate students remained a burden.
“We’ve been down an entire apartment complex for two years now, and as of right now, we still have no concrete idea of when we might expect a replacement for University Village to be built,” Scott said.
A school spokesman said there was no updates to any potential developments of new off-campus student housing or child care. The school still runs Tara Apartments, Manor House and University Heights.
Scott said housing for graduate students can sometimes need specific tailoring for success. Proximity to campus, where many graduate students are also employed, helps students who may come to Columbia without a car. While apartment complexes continue to rise downtown, located just north of the campus, Scott said rent can often exceed the stipends graduate students receive.
“We have to be sure that whatever gets built [in place of University Village] for graduate workers and graduate students that it’s affordable to people making the amount of money that they have.”