A Manifesto on Water Shutdowns
Written by Bwog Staff
In our continuing coverage of things going wrong in housing, several residents of Schapiro have written the below semi-serious “manifesto” on the sporadic dearth of H20 in their find building. Read on to see this open letter to Housing and, as you are wont to, sound off in comments:
We, residents of Schapiro Hall, object to the way Facilities and Housing handled this Wednesday’s water shutdown.
We understand that someone deems these shutdowns necessary for maintenance work—that no one is turning off the water because they enjoy it. Also, we believe that the repairmen have just as much a right to work during decent hours as we do. But this shouldn’t exempt the Facilities and Housing departments from criticism about how these shutdowns are conducted.
Wednesday’s shutdown was the fourth this semester. It is our general understanding that these repairs intend to resolve and anticipate plumbing problems, but we have witnessed little improvement in this regard. Bathrooms and kitchens flood. Days often begin with cold showers. Water pressure ever fluctuates. Moreover, those of us who lived here last year suffered through even worse and more frequent water issues. It might be thought that after such a terrible situation Housing would rectify the plumbing situation over the summer. They didn’t.
So, to start, we want some sort of an explanation of what exactly is the matter with plumbing in Schapiro that results in these persistent issues. Other similarly sized dormitories don’t have these problems and there must be some reason. It is unclear as to why such information has not already been made public.
Secondly, we find much fault in the way in which Housing announces shutdowns. Primarily, the announcements fail to acknowledge what a water shutdown in Schapiro actually entails. A water shutdown means mainly that four hundred people won’t be able to shit or pee in the building during its duration. Nor, for that matter, can we brush our teeth, cook, do laundry, wash our hands, shower, or have a glass of water.
When Housing advises us to “plan accordingly” for these shutdowns, Housing ignores this and denies responsibility for our inability to practice basic hygiene. Even if doing anything to facilitate the basic hygiene of four hundred students (such as renting Porta Potties) exceeds Facilities’ capacities, not acknowledging the situation simply aggravates the already unfortunate circumstances of the shutdown. It leads to ill will among us towards the administration and contributes to a predominant sentiment that the administration at Columbia does not care about the welfare of students.
The fact that all these announcements are signed “Columbia Housing” only compounds these feelings of administrative disconnect and callousness. Unless someone named Columbia Housing can be found on the rolls of student services, which we are inclined to doubt, we read this use of an organizational signature as an attempt to escape any responsibility. Humans are behind these decisions, not robots. We also find this decision largely hypocritical in face of the Housing Department’s philosophy of personal accountability. We see this wise creed embraced when we move out only an hour after were are supposed to, and are taken fully to task and summarily subject to large fines.
We want housing to announce these shutdowns with some compassion. Part of this involves listing the actual implications of shutdowns and helping to mitigate them so that students are not left to discover and bear them on their own. Part of this involves actually signing the letters, which would let students know that these messages are simply not automated.
Lastly, we are frustrated with the unannounced decision to lock the lounges and bathrooms this during Wednesday’s shutdown. This prevented us from accessing whatever food we had stored in the kitchens and using the kitchen to prepare breakfast and lunch. Many of us had to eat lunch out as a result, something that is hard to do affordably in this neighborhood (and most definitely not in Columbia’s own dining facilities). We fail to understand the necessity of this decision, which hasn’t been the case during prior shutdowns and resent that we were given no warning and thus no chance to remove whatever we needed from our floor kitchens.
We collectively pay millions of dollars to live in this building each year. No matter what our housing contract may or may not say, it is only fair for us to expect some decency at the hands of Facilities and Housing. But in the end, we appeal to what we only hope is a shared belief among students and administrators: that Columbia is a community where we can be honest with one another and treat each other like human beings.
Schapiro via Shutterstock