Posted July 10, 2013 by Sarah-Ann Harnick 

Don't Tell Sarah

"Welcome to the second year of a four-month project designed to stop leaks and, yet again, upgrade our landscape deck. Anticipated completion ranges from July 31–Aug. 31, 2013."

Yes, you read that correctly: We’re in the second year of a four-month renovation.

The term “substantial completion” is often used in construction meetings. For those of you unfamiliar with that term, it is loosely defined as “the project is finished when I say it is.” I know because I looked it up on the American Institute of Architects website years ago. This term makes me nervous. In my experience, it’s when the end-users’ (students) needs might be sacrificed to speed up completion or rein in costs. My antennae go way up once the term is introduced.

I often refer to the last few months of a project as the “Don’t Tell Sarah” phase. It’s the phase where project meetings are held without me, my questions go unanswered, and students’ needs are forgotten. If you don’t tell me what’s going on, I have no choice but to ask a lot of questions and press you to remember students’ needs. Don’t tell me I represent the end user and then ignore my questions about the picnic tables. Don’t give me blank looks when I ask what happened to the electrical outlets we need for the DJs. And the more sparse the information provided, the more dramatic I become. If you want to imagine me gesticulating, you wouldn’t be far off.

There was recently a good example of “Don’t Tell Sarah." While my dean and her administrative assistant gathered their personal belongings to evacuate their office, various members of public safety and facilities management played guessing games and ran around the building trying to track down an odor. Turns out, the roofers were trying to finish their piece of the project. If only someone had told Sarah they would be torching the roof near an intake vent, I could have shared the information.

Sarah-Ann Harnick

Sarah-Ann Harnick is the Assistant Director- Campus Life at New Jersey City University.

Sarah Harnick became active in ACUI with her first job in student activities of Rider then-College. After earning her master’s in fine arts from the University of Texas, she relocated to New Jersey and just never left the state. Intrigued by how things work, she accepted an operations position at New Jersey City now-University where she has learned more about elevators, revolving doors, and roof leaks than most people should ever know. The real reason she has stayed in this field is the pure joy of watching students learn and grow.


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