Reynolds Takes A Spill

Jessie Thomas, Communications Director

This is a developing story, and The Oracle will be continuing coverage following any developments.

On Tues., Oct. 8, a Henderson faculty member reported a “chemical odor” to the University Police Department. The Arkansas Fire Department helped police in conducting an evacuation of the building, and classes were cancelled for the remainder of the day and stayed closed through Monday. 

     The Arkansas Department of Emergency Management and Arkansas State Police conducted air quality testing of the building which indicated the chemical odor was from benzyl chloride. According to an announcement from Henderson’s Associate Vice President of Marketing and Communications, Tina Hall, benzyl chloride was spilled in the third floor laboratories of the building. In an email announcement sent out to students, Ms. Hall warned, “Prolonged exposure to benzyl chloride can produce skin, eye, nose, and throat irritation. If anyone experiences these symptoms, you should contact your doctor.”

Any students with classes in the building should check their emails for information regarding class relocation/cancellation. Some meeting rooms were opened in Garrison to hold classes, but science lab courses require specific space and equipment, so these classes have been especially difficult to accommodate. 

In an interview, Tina Hall said Reynolds will remain closed through Tuesday and could stay closed longer pending test results. The building is undergoing renovation to improve ventilation, and windows have been removed to facilitate this. Ms. Hall said that it is standard procedure to involve police in the investigation to ensure public safety. When asked if there was any reason to believe illegal activity was involved in the spill, Hall stated that the University is conducting internal assessments to find out exactly who or what caused the spill, and they are attempting to construct a timeline of events to help in their investigation. Procedural assessments are being done to make sure this does not happen again in the future.

In an interview with Angela Boswell, Dean of Ellis College of Arts and Sciences, the building closure affects approximately 25 faculty members, one administrative assistant, and 2,818 students who are enrolled in courses this semester. She noted that the enrollment numbers include students taking multiple classes in the building, so the number of students affected would be less than the number given. 

     Ms. Boswell concluded her interview with a statement thanking faculty, staff, and students affected by the closing of Reynolds for their patience as administration attempts to relocate, reschedule, and find alternate ways to continue education. She also thanked the rest of the campus for their grace in offering spaces and helping the displaced faculty and students.