Students returning to Tyler Junior College for the spring semester have had to find detours and alternate routes to their classes to bypass the construction zones that are now littering the campus.
Some students, frustrated by having to take the long way around campus, are ignoring the bright orange fenced-off areas covered with warning signs and are walking through these construction zones, taking their safety into their own hands for the benefit of having a shorter walk to class.
“We cannot have anyone, I don’t care who they are whether they’re a student or employee of TJC, in the construction zones because we have heavy equipment,” Executive Director of Campus Safety Dr. Tom Johnson said. “We have dangerous pieces of metal and things like that…some of them weigh more than 1,000 pounds.”
The main reason TJC wants people out of the construction zones is because of safety issues.
“You can slip and fall. You can get run over. Something can fall and hit you in the head,” Director of Environmental Health and Safety Compliance Robby Underwood said. “There are far too many (hazards) and accidents or something that can happen to someone around construction.”
If anyone passes through a construction zone that is marked off with an orange fence or has signs that read ‘do not enter,’ then they are breaking school rules.
“If a student does, then they are breaking a directive that’s in the student code of conduct. Where a directive is given by a college official-that is a written directive,” Johnson said referring to the signs. “That way they can be referred to the student judicial affairs.”
The punishment of the student will then be decided by the student judicial coordinator.
“This should be very simple,” Johnson said. “There’s a big sign that says ‘Do Not Enter, Sanctions Will Be Given.’ You shouldn’t go in there and it’s all for the protection of the students and employees. We don’t care who it is.”
Campus Safety will now be paying closer attention to the construction zones to make sure no unauthorized persons are in the areas.
“We are going to try to do as much as we can,” Johnson said. “We have officers on bike patrol, foot patrol and driving around to prevent students from going in those areas, which are clearly marked.”
TJC employees are not exempt from the rule either. If they are caught in any construction zone then there will also be consequences.
“We will refer them to the executive director of human resources,” Director of Campus Safety Randy Melton said.
“They generally have no business to be in the areas, too, so we are watching everyone unless you are a construction worker or directly involved in that project.”
TJC has also made extra efforts to keep students out of the construction zone.
“Part of the signs has to do with safety regulations,” Melton said. “We’ve asked our maintenance department to have them put up some additional signs and also where you used to have an orange kind of flexible kind of fence, we’ve asked them to put some metal fences along to make sure it’s sound, where you just don’t walk over or step over, that type of deal.”
Unlike last semester’s construction, which was only located in one spot outside of Wagstaff Gym, the current construction will be moving throughout the campus.
“The construction areas are moving to a more populous area on the campus basically,” Underwood said. “So you’re going to have more student exposure, you’re going to have more faculty exposure and everyone just needs to be extra diligent not to enter the construction areas.”
According to Johnson, there will always be walking paths around the construction zone areas so students and faculty will still be able to get around campus.
“We are having to stay on top of them because they change daily as far as the route,” Johnson said. “Our officers are walking around hopefully asking people not to do it but if they see someone then yes…we are going to get their name and find out who they are and they’ll be referred to judicial affairs for breaking a rule. It’s as simple as that.”
While the construction is present on the TJC campus, Johnson and Underwood suggest that everyone should just avoid the orange fences.
“What it boils down to is the construction workers have enough just trying to keep themselves out of harm’s way,” Underwood said. “It’s just hard for them to recognize their job and to keep their mind on that than wondering who might be wandering through their construction area. Just a person wandering through there, they present themselves with a lot of danger.”