Benvenuto: Dartmouth’s Dorms Need Attention
While the College plans to renovate dorm buildings and increase the number of beds to house students in coming years, a quicker solution is necessary for health and safety issues.
While the College has announced plans to build a complex at 25 West Wheelock Street to house 250 to 300 students, improvements are still necessary in older dorm buildings across campus. President Sian Beilock certainly is addressing the needs of students with her inaugural pledge to build 1,000 beds in the next decade, but the College cannot forget about its existing buildings. As long as students are still stuck living in older dorm buildings, the integrity of these facilities should be prioritized.
The health and safety of students should be a top priority to the College, but sometimes it feels as though students are being neglected. In my own dorm room in Russell Sage Hall, there was a large hole exposing a pipe in the bathroom. On move-in day, which was Aug. 30, my roommates and I put in a work order to Residential Operations, as instructed by the West House professor and by the custodian of Russell Sage Hall. It was not until last week that the hole was finally fixed, despite numerous phone calls and promises that we were at the top of their list. For two months, my roommates and I had to live with a leaky hole that brought a musty smell into our room, even though we put in a request for it to be fixed on day one.
Our experience is just one of many: other students, particularly freshmen living in older dorms, such as the Choates residence hall cluster or Fayerweather Hall, have also suffered from problematic dorms. I have heard from peers about complaints of mold growing in showers and allergies flaring up from old, dirty carpets in rooms. Another student I know had a cracked radiator in their room that had to be replaced, which took Residential Operations several months and numerous additional inquiries to complete after they gave the student a metal pan to catch the dripping radiator fluids as a temporary resolution. Issues like these should be a top priority of the College and Residential Operations. While it is encouraging that the College is trying to improve housing by building new housing complexes, the students currently enrolled will probably not see the benefits of these improvements. While construction is planned to hopefully begin in 2024 at West Wheelock Street, there is no timeline for when it will be done. Most likely, the project is one that will not be finished for most current students on campus to see.
Current students want to see improvements to their own housing, not just to the housing of future students. It is great to see that the College is aware of issues and the need for more housing, but it is hard for students to feel anything but neglected or ignored when their current problems are not being solved. It is discouraging to have to call multiple times a week for two months for a problem that could be solved in a day. The College should focus on fulfilling the requests by students about issues in buildings that currently exist. Cleaning bathrooms and testing for mold when there is unknown growth in showers should be of highest importance so that students do not face adverse health risks. Students should not have to worry about being in the shower for too long because they are scared of the effects of prolonged exposure to mold.
Completing small fixes to dorms is the bare minimum. The College has the resources to maintain the health and safety of students by preserving the integrity of its housing facilities. It is the responsibility of the College to help students stay safe and healthy as long as they are living on campus. Many students have turned to buying air purifiers or have had to buy extra blankets in an effort to combat poor air quality and poor heating. Many students notice that without an air purifier, they are congested or have a sore throat, but the extra expense of an air purifier is out of reach for some. Providing air purifiers to dorms that are experiencing these issues would be a nice first step, but the College needs to address the concerns of students about air quality by fixing the root causes of issues, such as mold and even the lead paint in some buildings, to ease students’ worries.
Moreover, students should not have to find extra sources of warmth because their heating systems do not work well or because their windows do not shut properly. The College needs to allocate sufficient resources to address these pertinent issues so that students are not dealing with additional burdens while already stressed about academics. The College must finally take seriously its responsibility of protecting the health and safety of students by promptly solving the residential issues that students face and have been vocal about. There at least needs to be better communication from Residential Operations to students about when a request is going to be fulfilled, and Residential Operations then needs to fulfill those requests in a timely manner.
Opinion articles represent the views of their author(s), which are not necessarily those of The Dartmouth.