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Boiling Water and Late Bills: The Winter of 2021-2022

The winter of 2021-2022 has been difficult: students in Noyes were displaced after a pipe burst and sprayed boiling water on a bed (while no one was hurt from the pipe burst, there was damaged property that the school has not offered to compensate at least one student for, though they claim incorrectly to have done so). Many were unaware of the cost of staying over the winter until mid-February; isolation and loneliness were common across those staying over Field Work Term. 

After sitting down with Mari Schiff, a student who stayed over the winter, I learned that “the heating went off a couple of times” throughout Field Work Term and students were told to make sure they had blankets in case it happened again. This pales in comparison to the pipe bursting on a radiator in Tanvir Anjum’s room, flooding the room below it, occupied by Dan Rizzo. 

“ I was working at 2:30 am, January 31st,” Says Tanvir. “Suddenly the heater started making weird sounds and then… the heater started spewing hot water on my bed… It was hard because I had to step on all of the hot water… [buildings and grounds] took about half an hour and then we stopped the leak from the heater but by that time the water started pouring down into the studio north,” the room below. North Reeves, the student in the studio north at the time, described the response from the administration: “there wasn’t a whole lot of communication…. We have the discord server but it was just so hard to actually get their attention… we weren’t contacted by administration when this happened…. Nobody checked in on us.” 

Eventually, the students living in studio north were relocated to studio south, but Anjum was not given another housing option and slept at a friend’s apartment in Paran Creek while his room was drying out. This led affected students to publicly question why they were still being charged for housing on campus, but no student was aware of how much they personally would be charged until far too late.

Before students decided to stay on campus, one student “emailed student life asking about fees” without hearing back from them. This trend continued throughout the entire break and most of FWT until early February. Students took to discord to voice their concerns about this issue. One student joked that this was like a “rent-controlled apartment but you have to live here a month until we tell you” what the rent is. A few days after this lengthy Discord discussion, bills were finally posted. To learn more about why the winter was so difficult, I sat down with the student life office including Drew Hutchinson, Christine Congelosi-Lulla, and Dr. Li-Chen Chin, and discussed what happened.

Addressing the pipes bursting, Dr. Chin explained that her “understanding of that particular emergency was that [the student] reached out to campus safety and campus safety responded” and that “[she] was… recently able to talk to the individual who was directly affected by it.” Dr. Chin admitted that “the secondary communication did not go as well… Buildings and grounds responded but… we weren’t notified that this happened until somebody posted on Discord.” This runs counter to what the students affected recalled in their interviews though. Dr. Chin went further to say that “there appeared to be some confusion about what happened since the initial response.” None of the initial students impacted have followed up in response to this claim.

In the conversation on billing for student housing, Hutchinson explained that “[the student life office] care[s] for our students pretty significantly and I know it doesn’t feel that way right now… but it’s been extra challenging, unfortunately… we know what not to do in the future.” The only direct address that was given in this interview to the billing delay was from Congelosi-Lulla who stated that she “worked with Michelle Rollins about it” Congelosi-Lulla went on to say “I don’t know what the delay was… I’m not 100% certain of those specifics.” Unfortunately, this was the extent of the detail that the student life office was able to give as an explanation for the delay.

Dr. Chin explained that “every single institution has communication issues.” She went on to state that the student life office is “looking for partnership… to make sure we are responsive.” That being said, students interviewed for this article weren’t interested in being held accountable for the student life office’s shortcomings.

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