Jefferson flooding affects student wellness, sparks criticism of College priorities

0
484
COURTESY IMAGE // WM.EDU

Saturday, Feb. 1, the basement and first floor levels of Jefferson Hall flooded. Each floor houses about 40 upperclassmen students, and many of the rooms were damaged by the water. 

As you may have seen on Facebook, it seems the flood on the basement level started when a pipe burst in one of the toilets. Water violently sprayed out of the toilet for almost 20 minutes before Facilities Management was able to turn it off. According to residents from the basement, at its highest, the water was at least a couple of inches high. Also, water was dripping from the ceiling. 

At the moment, we really don’t know what caused the flood on the first floor, but it was definitely caused by pipes that seem to be faulty all over the building, and it does not appear like this incident came out of nowhere. 

I have a friend who lives on the second floor, next to a bathroom on the opposite side of the hall. For the past couple of months, she has had a wet spot on her floor where the pipes from the bathroom are leaking through her floor. It has gotten increasingly worse since the new semester started, and recently, the facilities workers have been trying to figure out a way to solve the problem without taking out the entire wall. Clearly, there has been a problem with leaky pipes for months, and Facilities Management waited too long to do something substantial to fix the problem. 

Many students had water enter their rooms and soil possessions, especially those who live in the basement or those who live closest to the bathroom. Some students even had to leave the dorm. 

Students are constantly complaining about dorm conditions, and this incident seems to act as proof that these students are neither crazy nor demanding too much. It is no longer an issue of aesthetics; it is an issue of health and safety. First of all, the basement flood came from a toilet, as seen in the video. Although it was clean water in the toilet, how clean really is toilet water? That water covered the entirety of the hallway, as well as many students’ belongings. Second of all, water sitting is what causes mold, which is a problem with which the College of William and Mary’s dorms already struggle. Employees worked hard to vacuum all of the water up, and there have been fans in the hallways ever since, but is that enough to combat the damage already done?

Overall, this is a complex topic, so I joined into a conversation that a few students were having in the middle of the “Read and Relax” section of Earl Gregg Swem Library about the subject to hear their views. 

“It ruined my whole plan to be productive today,” Laura Tutko ‘22 said. “I know obviously they need time to think about what’s going to happen, but I just want to know if they’re going to move us out, what’s gonna happen. That’s obviously on my mind.” Tutko lives in Jefferson, right down the hall from me. 

Her friends, Charlie Westhoff ’22 and Alli Seifert ’22, also expressed their concerns about where the College could move her, since housing selection last year resulted in some students without places to live. 

“You can’t adequately perform in school if you’re trying to keep water out of your room,” Seifert said. “And I feel like they ignore the academic implications of having a crappy place to live. Laura didn’t sleep at all last night because she was moving her stuff around because there was water in her room.”

The group agreed that they should not have to worry about where they live, but it always has to be the primary concern on campus.

“I just think it’s ironic because, one, it is where all of the tours go, so that should be a prime example and it is not. And, the flood happened hours after the Kaplan Announcement,” Tutko said. 

She referenced the announcement that the College had just announced that they received a donation for a $57 million renovation of Kaplan Arena. 

“So, I’d be really interested to see if that would change at all based off of this, but I have a feeling that it won’t,” Tutko said.

“I’m interested to know when they’re going to listen to the complaints from the students and make changes versus just put Band-Aids on situations and act like it’s solving everything,” Westhoff said. 

Westhoff has also noticed how the College seems to put off issues until it is too late to solve them without creating an emergency. The group discussed how Tutko is a transfer from Mary Washington University, so she has experience with other schools. 

“Even though Mary Washington wasn’t where I was supposed to be, their accessibility services were so accommodating and they were so aware of how much someone’s environment can affect their college experience,” Tutko said. “And here, I feel like that’s not the case.”

Email Alyssa Slovin at amslovin@email.wm.edu.