Undergraduate Student Government Announces University Construction Project to Fix Drainage Issues on the Quad

The announcement comes after heavy precipitation caused lingering water to pool on quad pathways in late December, though the project has been in the works since last spring.


A misty day on a seemingly empty main quad, during UChicago’s spring break in 2020, after many students had departed from campus.

By Justin Walgren

On January 4, Undergraduate Student Government (USG) announced that University administrative officials are planning a construction project to address poor water drainage on the quad.

An Instagram post by USG’s official Instagram account reads, “A University team is designing a multi-year plan to address this issue and correct some other problems with the original installation.” The post said that work on the project will begin in the summer of 2023 and continue for five years, with all construction being confined to the summer months in order to avoid disruptions to students commuting through the quad during the academic year.

The post also says that until the project is finalized, Facilities Services will be squeegeeing the “most troublesome” spots on the quad as a temporary solution.

The Maroon spoke with third-year Evelyn Li, USG’s vice president of campus life, to discuss the origins of the proposal and USG’s correspondence with University administration.

“When it rains here on campus, there’s a lot of pooling of water on the quad,” Li said about the draining issue. “It’s something that affects students every quarter, very frequently.”

According to Li, many University students noted that the pooling of water became particularly excessive after heavy snow and rainfall in the final weeks of December.

Li explained that the accumulation of leaves in the catch basins beneath the pavement on the quad prevents water from draining properly, causing it to pool.

The Maroon also learned from Jeremy Manier, the University’s assistant vice president of communications, that the drainage failures are partially linked to durability issues with the original installation of the pavement on the quad. The pavement was installed in 2011 when the University replaced several roadways intersecting the quad with the current pedestrian pathways.

“The pathways were designed to be permeable and to drain beneath the pavers, and at times the drainage is not fast enough to prevent ponding,” he wrote.

Li, whose 2022 election campaign focused on finding a solution to the drainage issue, said that she forwarded her concerns to University administration at the beginning of her term in May 2022. The topic came up during her first meeting with Dean of Students Michele Rasmussen and then-provost Ka Yee Lee.

According to Li, Provost Lee stated that fixing the water-pooling on the quad was a top priority in the administration’s yearly agenda. Since then, Li and other USG cabinet members have been corresponding with University administration, particularly the Facilities Services department, to collaborate on the project.

Li said that USG lacks the resources and expertise to directly assist with the project. “We aren’t really experts on the situation—we can only really provide a voice of concern,” she said. As such, the University administration will be handling the project’s funding and logistics.