Dorm Troubles: Mice, Mold and Strangers
Monday, February 14th, 2011
Sara Maier, 19, recently left the Stuyvesant Park dorm after she and her roommate were repeatedly ignored by the Stuyvesant Park staff. "The room was not heated, despite numerous and repeated work orders, and the room was infested with an estimated 10 mice," Maier said. According to Maier, the Stuyvesant Park staff was aware of the infestation but did not tell students. "There was also black mold covering the bathroom walls for months, but despite numerous work orders, nothing was done," she said. After housing ignored their request to transfer dorms, Maier and her roommate petitioned to leave.
Maier said that she and her roommate often sat in front of their stove for warmth while doing homework first semester. "We found out that the room temperature was at an illegal level," she said. The New York state temperature requires it to be at least 68 degrees. However, when maintenance took their room temperature, it was 52 degrees. According to Maier, only after they threatened to call the New York City Housing Authority did the school switch them to a new dorm that day.
"The New School is working very closely with the landlord at Stuyvesant Park and with its own maintenance staff on both these issues," said Robert Lutomski, director of student housing and residence life, responding to the allegations about mold and heat. "After investigation, we have learned that the mold is only present on the surface and that it is not harmful," he said. Lutomski also explained that engineers made adjustments to the building exhaust in order to alleviate problems with mold. Reassigning students who wish to change rooms can be arranged as well. "We take seriously residents' safety and comfort," Lutomski said.
Students are joining in a growing chorus of dissatisfaction among resident advisors who have long complained that higher administrators in the housing department disregard those at the lower levels of the residence hall staff and the residents themselves. Fed up with university authorities, students are looking for better service in their housing. Faster service from maintenance, heating and a solution to mold are among the highest priorities. Among these problems, the university is also not telling students if or when they will be receiving new roommates and suitemates.
Jori Schwartz, 18, was one of the students caught unaware by a new roommate. "I felt a tad bit cautious leaving my room while other suitemates moved in," she said. "My personal belongings were in my room."
There is currently no rule stating that students are entitled to know who their new suitemates and roommates will be. Although some students reportedly got an e-mail from The New School's housing office giving the number of new roommates they would be receiving for the spring semester, none were given their new roommates' names or move in date.
Other students voiced even greater concerns with the possibility of coming back to school with a new person in their room. "I felt as thought I had to lock my things up," said Clair Young, 20. "I felt extremely uncomfortable with leaving my stuff in my room over break after I found out that my roommate from first semester would not be coming back."
Although some residents said they were surprised by their new suitemates, housing authorities maintain that they followed all the proper procedures. "Current residents are always informed that if they have a vacant bed in their room, they should expect that they may be assigned a new roommate," Lutomski said. "[The Housing Office] does routinely check for vacancies and tries to get in touch with any students not checked in officially to confirm residency and enrollment."
Still, students complained that they are not being informed that new people are moving in. For students, the problem does not lay in the fact that new roommates and suitemates are expected, but that they are unaware of when and who will be coming. "I do feel I have the right to know," Schwartz said. "Just because it's shared space doesn't make it not personal."
"Housing is still available for students who need it, so there certainly hasn't been a shortage," said Lutomski. Placing students is the least of worries as dorm residents struggle to accept their uninhabitable living conditions and no word from higher authorities.
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