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ASU students raise concerns about housing conditions

ASU students living in Troyer House present safety concerns to Campus Council regarding “barely livable” conditions

Waverly Hart

Managing Editor

Since the beginning of the school year, the students residing in Troyer House have been dealing with living conditions that one resident described as “barely livable” and neither safe nor hygienic.  Two of the house’s original 11 residents have moved out because of respiratory issues that were exacerbated by living in the house.

The issue was raised during the Campus Council meeting on Thursday, Sept. 20 by Christian Betre ’19, the international student representative on Campus Council and the former president of the African Student Union (ASU).  

Troyer House, also known as the ASU House, currently houses nine students, all of whom are international.  According to Betre, when ASU found out last semester that they would be living in Troyer House, they went there to take a look around.  

“The carpet was just really stained and had a lot of black stains, and it had an odor too,” said Betre. Several members of ASU compiled a list of issues and went to talk to Residence Life.  

According to Betre, they talked to Carly Jones, the College’s housing coordinator, who was receptive and told them something would be done to the house over the summer.  However, when the students moved into the house in the fall, Betre said nothing had been done.  

“[Residence Life] told us they sent a service center custodian over and the custodian told them the carpet needs to be removed, and no type of deep cleaning could get the stains or the smell out of the carpet,” Betre explained.  

Campus Council member Robert Dinkins, Jr. ’19 met with Nathan Fein, director of Residence Life, to discuss the issues surrounding the house. 

“I was curious to know why Troyer House (ASU) went without repairs throughout the duration of the summer months,” said Dinkins. “Nathan explained to me that the College has a $90 million repair deficit. This means that some repairs often go undone to complete higher priorities. It is somewhat concerning that living areas for students paying room and board are not considered high priority.”

Although the stains and smell on the carpet are difficult to live with, Betre said the more serious issue began on Monday, Sept. 17.  

“[On] Monday, one of the residents walks into the house and goes into her room to turn on the lights, but she can’t turn them on, and there’s just water coming down from her ceiling … she went to the bathroom next door to her room and water’s also coming down from upstairs.  She goes upstairs and she sees that the upstairs bathroom started flooding,” said Betre. “They had trash cans filling up with water because that’s how much water was gushing down, and they couldn’t stop it.”  

The residents called a custodian, who came over and temporarily fixed the problem.

“Now on top of the carpet smelling, the sewage water is now on the carpet, so there’s a very pungent smell in the room,” Betre said. 

After the flooding incident, several electricians and Fein did a walk-through of the house.  According to Betre, “They realized the house is not in any condition for anybody to live in.”

Associate Vice President of Facilities Management & Development Doug Laditka said they are exploring ways to repair the house.

“The facilities team is in the process of prioritizing and completing all of the minor repairs.  Larger repairs that may be impactful to students or require capital funding are being reviewed,” he said.

Betre says the fact that the house’s residents are international makes repairing it more difficult. Usually the repairs would be done during fall break when students typically aren’t in the house, but many international students stay on campus during breaks.  Therefore, the College would have to find a place for the residents to stay while the repairs are being done.  

Angela Danso Gyane ’21 is one of the residents who moved out of Troyer House because of its uncleanliness. 

“The basement flood[s] whenever it rains even a little, and there are exposed wires in the basement ceiling,” Danso Gyane said.  “There are only two showers working and they are in the basement, the boys’ shower had brown water coming out of it, and it was just not hygienic in the basement.”

Betre is concerned that the condition of the house won’t allow members of ASU to use it as the safe space they originally intended it to be.

“We wanted this house so it could serve as our space, as our area of meeting [and as] our safe space, but the house is just in bad condition and nobody wants to stay in the house, let alone have the whole group utilize it as a safe space,” she said.

The problems Troyer House is having might become issues in other houses as well.

“[Fein] also mentioned how many of the houses on campus are dilapidated,” said Dinkins. “Many of these houses … were built in the early 1900s. Due to this, many of the houses’ values fall extremely short of the estimated value of repairs. Hypothetically, if a house is $60,000, the repairs might cost $200K, and the college does not feel like it is financially responsible to make said repairs. This is a little worrisome considering that 15 percent of the student population lives in these houses.”

Fein said the houses weren’t too dilapidated, but in a state of disrepair.  He also said the College is “looking into” making such repairs to the houses.

Betre said ASU was met with “resistance” and “ineffective responses” from Res Life.

“The thing that I’m really concerned about is [Res Life] doesn’t know what any of the conditions of these houses are. All they care about is it being safe, as in, has it reached the code of fire and safety and has it met the bare minimum of living standards … They don’t care about anything else at the house, at least from the interactions I’ve had with them; that’s what they’ve tried to describe to us,” said Betre. 

According to Fein, Res Life has been working closely with Facilities and the residents of Troyer to address their concerns and find a plausible solution. Earlier this week, Fein said the carpet in the house had undergone a deep cleaning. 

ASU and members of Campus Council are also trying to work with Res Life to provide a better living environment for the Troyer House residents.

“We can make recommendations to the President about the housing situations. We can also look at policies to mitigate these issues in the future. For instance, Nathan shared with me that all repair fees go into a pool. Perhaps instead of going into a pool, the repair fees go to fix whatever caused the fee to be charged,” said Dinkins.

According to Fein, the pool  to which Dinkins referred is the damage billing fund, which goes towards repairing residence halls.

“I am hoping to start conversation around making a policy that helps Res Life and Facilities ensure safe and sanitary conditions for all members of our community that live on College property,” said Dinkins.

(Photo by Toshiko Tanaka)

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