Category Archives: Front Page

Howell House Residents Detail Their Housing Situation

Savannah Sima

Features Editor

 

         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.”

C.O.W. Clarifies Inconsistent Conduct Enforcement

Aspen Rush

Editor in Chief

 

The clarification follows a series of conduct violations that were questioned by students.

Since the beginning of the fall semester, student conduct and gathering guidelines have been unclear to many students on campus. To clarify campus policies, Johnathon Reynolds, director of residence life, sent an email to the student body explaining Student Conduct policies. While the Scot’s Key’s rules and regulations have not changed since 2017, the College’s enforcement of these guidelines has changed dramatically since the beginning of this semester. 

Many students identify shifts within administration as the root of these changes. Since the Director of Students Rights and Responsibilities and Assistant Director, Deputy Title IX Coordinator Amy Franklin-Craft took her position during the Fall 2020 school year, much of the frustration has been directed toward her. 

As the COVID-19 pandemic social restrictions lessened and the College started to allow large outdoor gatherings, Craft’s responsibilities have shifted from preventative COVID-19 measures to campus social life. As such, miscommunications between administrative bodies and students regarding policy enforcement have arisen. Despite these policies being present in the Scot’s Key since 2017, upperclassmen have expressed significant confusion since these policies have only recently been enforced. As a result, students have been subject to unexpected conduct violations. Two student houses currently have pending cases regarding policy violations. 

Frank Adams ’22, noticed the stark change in the College’s student conduct and party policies this semester.  “This year the school has started enforcing policies that make it very unclear what is allowed or not,” Adams said “[as] they are busting parties for noise complaints when in years past the same rule applied … I am not sure why that has changed now.”

Adam also expressed concern about student’s ability to build community, “Parties allow students who, without clubs or Greek life, wouldn’t have been able to meet each other. Especially for queer students who are looking for a space where they will not be harassed.”

Scot Council class representative and Student Conduct committee officer Rachel Catus ’22 expressed concerns regarding administrative communication. Catus meets with administrative staff on a weekly basis to discuss student concerns. “Through working on Scot Council, I have seen how it is clear that there is often confusion or misinformation being spread due to a lack of consistent functioning,” Catus said, “and as a result this brings down the quality of life for the student body.” Craft is in conversations with Scot Council, working to resolve some of this miscommunication.

To clarify the increasing confusion regarding conduct violations, Reynolds sent an email on behalf of campus leadership addressing common questions amongst students. In his email, Reynolds outlined party protocols. 

The intent of these protocols are not to eliminate on-campus parties but to allow parties with safety in mind. For small gatherings of less than 25 people with no alcohol present do not need to be registered with the College. Large gatherings of more than 25 people with no alcohol present do not need to be registered, but hosts must call into Campus Safety to make them aware of the event.

Small gatherings of less than 25 people with  alcohol present do not need to be registered. Large gatherings of more than 25 people and alcohol  must be registered with the College.

Wednesday gatherings must be submitted the Friday prior, Thursday gatherings must be submitted by the Monday prior, Friday gatherings must be submitted the Tuesday prior, and Saturday gatherings must be submitted the Wednesday prior.

In addition to registering large gatherings, students must have a number of Party Positive trained students in attendance. The number of trained students required to be present is determined by the size and location of the event. 

Reynolds also clarified quiet hours in his email, noting that the hours started from 12 a.m. and not 11 p.m., as students across campus were previously informed. “The College of Wooster quiet hours coincide with the City of Wooster noise ordinance. Please note, students are expected to comply with reasonable requests to contain noise upon request during non-quiet hours. This change will be made to the Scots Key to reflect the 12:00 a.m. to 6:00 a.m. hours.

The email also detailed information regarding events that had to be registered. While the Scot’s Key has always required large gatherings with alcohol to be registered with the College, it was not enforced before this year. Add quote During the weekend of Sept. 17, four large gatherings were forced to disperse by Campus Safety officers. In contrast to previous years, students have moved many of their social gatherings to outdoor spaces to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. However, an increase in noise complaints and the recent execution of City noise ordinances have arisen in response to the outdoor parties. 

Black and Gold Weekend:

While students navigate new conduct and gathering policies, on Tuesday, Sept. 21, the COVID-19 Task Force released updated rules to the Campus Community for Black and Gold Weekend. Held on Sept. 24 and 25, more than 1,000 parents and alumni will return to campus for the annual festivities. 

In order to mitigate a potential outbreak, visitors will not be allowed in select locations and Masks must be worn at all times when indoors. Visitors will not be allowed in classrooms while classes are taking place, in dining halls, in residential spaces and in the Underground. Knowlton Café will remain open to visitors as it does not require swipe access. In addition to these restrictions, indoor events have a limited capacity and require registration.

 “There seems to be a distinct lack of communication between the different branches of administration,” Catus noted.

The Voice reached out to Craft for comments; however, we did not receive a response by the time this issue was sent out to print.

Bats, Infrastructure, and Lead Concern Students in Res Life

Sam Boudreau

News Editor

 

While working as a custodian over the summer at The College of Wooster, Debarghya Deb ’24 felt a sharp pain in his hand as he closed a window in Westminster Cottage. Deb looked behind a brick that held the window open. Behind the brick, he found a small and frightened bat.  “The bat bit me,” Deb said, “and I had to get like four shots of rabies.” 

Deb’s run-ins with bats did not stop there, as he now lives in Holden Hall, the epicenter of the College’s bat infestation. “I have seen many bats since I have moved in,” he said. 

Little Brown Bats (Myotis lucifugus) and Big Brown Bats (Eptesicus fuscus), have been the source of infestations in many residential halls and campus houses at the College. From the start of the semester to Sept. 2, The College received 40 cases of bat infestations in residential halls and campus houses. “The bat reports that we had have dropped significantly,” Director of Residence Life at the College Johnathan Reynolds said. “We have had a few, less than five, reports since Sept. 2.”

Due to these high numbers, the College held a “Student Conversation with Facilities” on Sept. 2. at Holden Hall’s courtyard. Mike Taylor, Associate Vice President of Facilities, Design and Construction; Mike Mathis, Manager of Services, Physical Plant, and Service Center; Tom Lockard, Service Center; Carly Jones, Housing Coordinator of Residence Life; and Reynolds discussed the College’s bat infestations with concerned students. 

At the meeting, Lockard and Taylor said the primary reason for bat infestations in residential halls is students leaving their room’s windows open without the screen window. “90 percent of the bats are due to windows and [student-installed] air conditioners,” Lockard said at the meeting. Lockard and Taylor said students need to submit a work order request, so maintenance can help fix window openings where bats may potentially enter the room and  identify other areas where bats may enter the room. 

“Bats in housing are not totally a student’s problem,” Taylor said, “we just need students’ help to solve this.”

At any time if a student notices structural problems or any other type problems they can submit a TMA Work Order Request through the link on the Facilities Management & Planning web page at inside.wooster.edu/facilities/. Students can also call the Service Center at 330-287-3500 (Monday to Friday between 7:30 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.) or call Campus Safety at 330-263-2590 (after 4:00 p.m. and weekends).

While students leaving windows open may lead to bat problems, residential halls with the most reports — Holden, Compton Hall, Kenarden Lodge and Wagner Hall — are all dorms without built-in air conditioning systems. When asked if there is a correlation between the lack of air conditioning units and increased bat reports, Reynolds answers affirmatively. “I would definitely say there is a correlation,” Reynolds said, “one of the things we have seen is that with the heat, students are wanting to open up their windows and put in their personal fans and, in some cases, personal AC units.” Reynolds said that installing personal AC units and fans may lead to a dislodged screen, a problem that dorms with central AC units, such as Bornhuetter Hall, Andrews Hall, Stevenson Hall and Armington Hall, do not have. 

At the meeting, Taylor said he understands that it is hot, but that students need to “balance” their comfort with helping to reduce bat infestations. “It’s been really hot and humid,” Taylor said, “but we got to balance comfort.”

Deb asked Taylor to what degree students living in older dorms need to compensate. “How much are we supposed to compensate?” Deb said. “We are paying the same amount for residence life as anyone else on campus.” 

While Holden Hall is in the College’s Master Plan to renovate, Taylor said at the meeting that “it is going to take time” to renovate the College’s largest residence hall. “There are two million square feet on this campus,” Taylor told Deb, “we really got to thoroughly plan what we renovate.” 

Criticism of the lack of residence hall renovations intensified with the College prioritizing the multi-million dollar Student Center transformation. “Holden is the biggest dorm and has the most people, and you treat them in the worst-possible way,” Deb said. “They’re renovating the Student Center right now, but, more than the Student Center, they need to renovate the older dorms like Holden.” 

Taylor listed the College’s most urgent problems in campus residential halls. 

“Most of the issues identified in our 2019 Facilities Condition Assessment (FCA), include aging roofing systems and aging building envelope systems,” he said. “When issues are discovered, the Facilities staff addresses those issues, or we secure the services of an outside company to help us address issues until full renovations can be scheduled over time.”

Campus Housing: Bats and Lead

The residents of Howell House, one of the College’s campus houses on Spink St., are no stranger to bats and out-of-date living conditions. “In our house, we actually have a board up with days since our last bat sighting,” said Lauren Kreeger ’23, a Howell House resident. Kreeger said that bats have been very prevalent in Howell House. “We’ve seen bats a lot,” Kreeger said, “It was at least once a day for a solid week.” 

Kreeger contacted the College’s Facilities Management and Planning, where they claim Tom Lockard denied the possibility of bats in the house. “He basically told us everything that we had observed was wrong,” Kreeger said. “He just did not do his job.” Kreeger and their housemates initially blocked off bat entries themselves. 

After meeting with Maintenance and ResLife, the College finally checked and identified the house for possible bat entries.

Additionally, Kreeger and their housemates cited structural issues with the house, including sewage problems, a hole in the shower wall and peeling paint on floors. 

“A lot of these things are things that could easily be prevented or would be fairly cheap to fix,” Kreeger said. 

Broadly, Kreeger and their housemates found a lack of communication with Facilities Management and Planning. “I do not think they listen to us,” Riley Maas ’22, a Howell House resident, said. “Maintenance does not treat us seriously.”

Lead in campus housing: 

While living in McDavitt House in Spring ‘21, Kreeger conducted an unofficial dust sample of the house for their petrology class. With the help of 360 Dust Analysis Program, a Citizen Science Project established by Macquarie University that “collects data on harmful chemicals in regular households,” Kreeger found “an abnormal amount of lead” in the house’s sample. “I think it had twice the natural soil limit,” they said. 

While the source of lead is unknown, Kreeger suspects the lead to be from the house’s paint. “That is what we think caused the elevated lead result,” they said, “ because there was paint in there, [such as] paint dust, paint chips, something like that.” 

Mike Taylor said that if there is lead in campus houses, then those elevated levels are likely due to paint. “Many houses built before 1978 have a good chance of having lead paint.” 

According to the CDC, lead overexposure  can lead to a multitude of health problems. Exposure to high levels of lead may cause anemia, weakness, and kidney and brain damage. Very high lead exposure can cause death.

“Now the lead was not so high that it necessarily poses an extreme health risk,” Kreeger said, “and if it is paint especially, it should generally be alright, except for maybe windowsills and general air flow because lead dust can flow around and people could inhale it.”  

However, Kreeger thinks the College needs to take steps to prevent future lead problems. 

“It is more about preventing a further issue down the line,” Kreeger said, “because I do not think the College takes very good care of the houses.”

After Kreeger’s findings, Taylor said the College conducted  further testing to identify lead in McDavitt. “McDavitt House was tested yesterday [Sept. 13] by our environmental consultant for lead paint,” Taylor said, “and we should have results from the testing back later in the week or early next week.” 

If lead is found in McDavitt house, Taylor said that the College will “encapsulate” the possible lead paint. “Across our campus, Facilities has painted over known lead paint using a recommended technique called encapsulation,” Taylor said, “which keeps it from becoming friable. Using encapsulants is the best and safest way to cover lead paint to prevent it from producing dangerous lead-containing dust. Encapsulants are thicker than regular paint primers and work to seal or ‘encapsulate’ the lead paint behind a membrane.”

ScotsConnect Simplifies Connecting with Student Organizations

Bijeta Lamichhane

News Editor

 

On Aug. 18, Director of Lowry Center & Student Activities Julia Zimmer sent an email to student organization leaders and introduced a new website that “serves to help students get connected with student organizations, events and other opportunities at Wooster.” The website, ScotsConnect, also helps student organizations streamline their programs and documents by simplifying the process of roster management, events approval and other obligations.

In the weeks since the launch of the website, LCSA has provided several training sessions for student leaders to navigate its features. Some of the features include a display of upcoming events, which can be sorted by organizations as well as categories. In addition, students can also access forms that allow them to register organizations and events as well as find organizations that suit a student’s interest. ScotsConnect also includes information about all of the student organizations that are currently chartered on campus along with the contact information of the current members. To join an organization, a student can simply open the organization’s webpage and click the “Join” button.

“I’m very glad that the College introduced this platform for all of us to connect and navigate our clubs because we have experienced several setbacks in the past,” said Sobika Thapa ’22, a member of the South Asia Committee. “The feature that I appreciate the most is that the website allows students to join and reach out to organizations easily. I remember struggling to find the contact information of student leaders last year because the website had not been updated with a list of the current members but connecting to other groups and leaders will be easier now.”

The platform will also help the LCSA staff, who are often overburdened with responsibilities of managing over 100 student organizations while remaining understaffed. As offices have had to be spread out across campus since the renovation of the Student Center, the platform will also save organizations from the hassle of visiting the LCSA office, which is no longer at the center of campus.

In addition to establishing a new platform for students to connect, LCSA has also been providing additional resources for student organizations to improve leadership as well as communication between LCSA and clubs. In April, LCSA introduced “Leadership Saturday,” a workshop for newly elected leaders to transition into their roles in their organizations. LCSA is also offering a mandatory financial training for student leaders to navigate finances for their organizations. Last year, the office had also introduced a monthly newsletter for student organizations to receive information and updates as well as keep up with deadlines pertaining to their clubs.