Since the start of the semester, Howell House residents have experienced an onslaught of housing issues. From bats to bees, to sewage leaks, the house has navigated some seriously unexpected emergencies. “It is no secret that the houses on Spink Street are old houses,” said Rachel Catus ’22, a Howell House resident, “however, when you own an old house, you have to do regular upkeep to maintain its safety.” From Catus’ perspective, housing maintenance t is where the College is lacking. “[The College’s housing] negligence led to bats being able to enter the house, an unattended massive yellow jacket nest under the porch, pipes being compromised, therefore leading to sewage leaks and smells,” Catus said “just to name some examples.”. Catus, along with housemates Riley Maas ’22, Lauren Kreeger ’23 and Carrie Buckwalter ’24, mentioned that they have attempted to reach out to departments across campus to make their space livable, with no luck. “Even when we have reached out to facilities or security for emergency assistance,” Buckwalter said, “they have asked us to catch the bats ourselves or have blamed our roommate for having an AC, despite us directing them towards the attic and being ignored.”
Howell House residents have had multiple unsavory interactions with different departments in an attempt to mediate all of these issues, especially Facilities Management & Planning. “Our confidence in maintenance and housing decreased dramatically,” said Kreeger. With bats and other infestations, Kreeger claimed that Tom Lockard failed to help the house address these issues. “Anytime there’s an issue that has to do with animals (bats or the yellow jackets), we desperately hope that the College won’t send Tom Lockard,” they said. “He just does not listen to us or take us seriously. I had to yell at him to get the entire house examined for bats. I shouldn’t have to resort to drastic measures. I don’t want to yell at people.”
The conduct of facilities’ staff members with Howell House residents is concerning, ranging from yelling and harassing the residents, to physically leaving the space messy. “Plants got spilled and my room was so covered in dirt that I had to miss a class in order to clean up,” Catus said. Thankfully, not every interaction with staff members has been as negative. “When Mike Taylor and/or Johnathan Reynolds have responded, things have worked out a lot better and we feel a lot more heard,” Catus said. Kreeger agreed, adding, “[Taylor] has gone above and beyond his job requirements to help us.”
ResLife has organized several meetings to try and address issues as they arise, after persistent reports of these issues from Howell House, “After we repeatedly reached out with our problems, we had a meeting with the head of housing and all the important people in ResLife,” Kreeger said. “We were listened to, at least.” Even after Howell House residents recieved attention from facilities, they were ignored by staff members only to find out that they were not misguided in their concerns. “It turns out there was an open space in the attic large enough for a bat to get through. Carly Jones did forget to get the yellow jackets taken care of, though, despite writing it down and saying it needed to be taken care of. That indicates a concerning nonchalance about the safety of students,” Kreeger said.
The impact these near daily issues have had on the residents day-to-day is significant. “It’s been rough,” Kreeger said “I’ve lost a lot of sleep, and it definitely impacted my ability to be the best TA and student I can be.”
“I have had to miss a pretty significant number of classes already this semester because chaos will erupt in the house and makes it frankly impossible to just leave the situation at that moment to attend class,” agreed Catus. “I also have had to cancel a lot of premade, standing plans when things in the house go awry or maintenance issues are persisting, so I have to further spend my time engaging with staff to get the problem even looked at. Missing social opportunities in tandem with classes has really negatively affected my mental health,” Catus added.
ResLife is aware of the extent of these issues, and has tried to offer support where they can, “I, as a Director of Residence Life, have been over to the house four times to provide support in regards to bats, post follow-up to observe the presence of bees, and to walk through the house to identify the smell of sewage,” said Reynolds.
Jones added, “Residence Life has been made aware of the maintenance situations for Howell House and has been a primary responder to those concerns and facilitated connections with the facilities service center. This includes coming over with facilities to observe the concerns, outreaching to the students post-situation to see if the problem has been resolved, and providing a response for interactions and other questions as needed.”
Jones elaborated, “While Residence Life doesn’t mitigate the actual work being done inside the house to resolve the issues noted above, our role is to respond promptly to the request and provide support for the students living in our facilities as well as making sure that facilities are following through on requests in a timely manner.”
Reynolds touched on how ResLife is limited in the support it can offer, but stated, “In my conversations with the residents of Howell, I am hoping that they are able to have a positive experience in their house. I am also hoping they are able to outreach directly to our office and know that we would support their living environment to the best of our ability.”