The perfect freshman housing location… or is it?

In early December, Bwog received a tip, included at the end of the post, that complained of a lack of hot water in Carman’s renovated floors since the beginning of the year. After receiving notification of this concern, Bwog investigated.

Since August 2017, several residents of Carman Hall’s newly renovated floors, floors 9 to 13, have reported to lack hot water.

On Carman 9, shower water doesn’t heat up at all or takes around 45 minutes to get to room temperature, according to freshman Sydney Groom. After other Carman 9 residents confirmed having similar water issues in their floor GroupMe, their RA reached out to Columbia Facilities and Operations. “I thought it was only an occasional issue, but looking at the group chat, it seems a lot more widespread,” said Carman 9 resident Anna Morrione.

Carman 11 has faced similar problems. A Carman 11 resident, who agreed to speak under the alias Stephanie, has not had hot water since the beginning of the school year, instead resorting to using her neighbors’ showers. After Stephanie and her roommates “complained twice a week” via phone and online for over a month, Facilities eventually “tried to fix it, but ultimately told us it wasn’t an easy fix and left it at that.” Carman 12 students also reported malfunctioning water.

Columbia Facilities, in a December statement to Bwog, recognizes receiving these calls at the beginning of the year but stated that the department had “responded immediately,” which differs from students’ accounts of response times. Facilities said it was unaware the water posed a continuing problem until a November meeting with the RAs.

After this meeting with the RAs, the department shut down the water system during Thanksgiving break to look into the pipes. Facilities performed even more invasive investigations during the winter break, saying in its statement to Bwog that “if the suspected cause is confirmed, repair work will begin immediately during break.” Carman residents were notified of the investigations (see notification email on the right).

According to its statement to Bwog, Facilities’ current theory is that the lack of hot water stems from “a connection issue related to the hot water and cold water risers.” Despite the fact that the water problem has occurred solely on upper, renovated floors, Facilities doesn’t believe that the renovations are a direct cause of the hot water issue but concedes that “summer work may have exacerbated an existing condition.”

Students’ testimonies after the break have reported that successes of these efforts are still varied. While Groom’s shower now receives warm water after running water for a full minute, multiple Carman 11 residents have confirmed that their hot water situations have worsened. In wake of these unresolved malfunctions of water systems, some Carman residents have expressed frustration regarding the lack of transparency and updates, and the lack of pragmatic solutions offered in dealing with faulty showers in the meantime, as engineering work continues.

For students, deeper concerns about Columbia’s housing and facilities have manifested themselves beyond just the hot water of Carman’s upper floors. Other unresolved issues in regards to heat and water, some more minor than others, have occurred throughout other residence halls as well, with many of these students experiencing problems receiving an adequate response to these issues.

First, there were those Carman residents who discovered a growing brown stain and a breakage in their ceiling in the first few weeks of school, and finally got Housing’s attention after multiple failed phone calls. Then, there’s freshman Christopher Takkak, who describes a lack of hot water on his floor, Furnald 5. Though Housing workers came to investigate the showers following a maintenance request, Takkak reports that “nothing has changed.”

In John Jay, freshman Robyn Stewart recounts Housing’s lack of response to her faulty heater. After realizing that her heater was not emitting heat to her room, she called maintenance in November, to little avail.

“They asked for the problem, so I explained that my heater was broken. And then they asked for my room number, and basically hung up. Of course I didn’t expect an immediate response, but it’s almost been like five weeks now, and it gets super cold in my room at night,” said Stewart. While the issue has been still unresolved by Facilities for more than a month after her original call, Stewart believes that a sickness she endured before the break was prolonged by the lack of a heater in her room.

“I would honestly say that maintenance has a lot of buildings to manage and that every individual maintenance person I have met has been very kind and gracious,” said Stewart. “But the fact that they are so overwhelmed with work that a relatively serious issue like a broken heater in the winter has been ignored potentially speaks to a greater problem among the higher ups in that department.”

Regarding response times to maintenance calls, Facilities claims that response times directly depend on the urgency of the issue. For emergencies like hot water and heat, workers are sent the same day as the request. Non-emergencies are typically responded to in three days or fewer, although “resolution can take up to two weeks depending upon availability to complete the work order.”

These response times declared by Facilities, however, seem to apparently differ from the realities faced by students, whose emergency housing issues such as a lack of heat can go unresolved for months. According to the city government’s website, property owners are legally required to provide hot water all year “at a constant minimum temperature of 120 degrees Fahrenheit,” as well as heat of “at least 68 degrees Fahrenheit…if the outside temperature falls below 55 degrees,” to residents – legal requirements that are not being met for some of the students in Columbia’s residence halls.

“I just thinks it’s ridiculous the amount of issues there are with basic services that we need in our residential halls,” said John Jay 13 resident Maryam Elsayed, whose fellow floormates have avoided using a bathroom with water oscillating only between freezing cold and burning hot. She hopes that Columbia will turn an eye to these ongoing housing issues, and hopefully find some structural solution to preempt future problems. “It makes it difficult, especially when I still have to shower in that bathroom because all the others are full in the morning. That’s no way to live, especially because Columbia has money to fix these problems that create inconveniences in our lives.”

The original tip is included in full below.

Photo via Bwog Archives