Recent construction-related excavation work on Minard Hall caused the North face of the building to collapse, exposing faculty offices and engineering incompetence in one fell swoop.
Minard Hall (formerly Science Hall) has a concrete foundation which rests on a bed of smectite clay. This clay, the main ingredient in clumping kitty litter, is the “bedrock” of Fargo, North Dakota and much of the Red River Valley. You might think of Fargo as a bit of frozen cat crap shifting around an enormous bed of saturated litter. To prevent catastrophic collapse, heavy buildings in the area are usually placed on 150 foot caissons (stilts), which rest on bedrock. Because Minard rests on the clay alone, removing the surrounding dirt probably caused the clay to ooze from underneath the building. More about smectite clays from Dr. Donald Schwert, who has precisely nothing to do with this post.
Unfortunately, this building houses my department, experiment, and student office.
This collapse represents a major setback for the institution as a whole, not to mention my progress as a graduate student. Tough times.