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ISSUE 121 VOL 12 PUBLISHED 2/29/2008

Leaky bathtub sinks ceiling and morale

By Kelin Loe
Opinion Editor
and Margaret Wade
Arts Editor

Friday, February 29, 2008

Once upon a time, on a street far, far away from the Residence Life office, Kelin Loe first ventured into Lincoln Inn. She noticed that the hallways slanted steeper that a golf course. She dropped a pencil, and it rolled east down her floor.

A gentle rain on the roof of Lincoln Inn lulled Loe's housemate Margaret Wade to sleep in early October. When she awoke early Tuesday morning, she discovered the storm's devastating effects. Reaching into her dark closet to pick out a shirt, she was startled to feel damp cloth on her hands. She discovered that all of the clothing in her closet was sopping wet and sprinkled in plaster.

For the past semester and interim, we have been living in a legitimate "Alice in Wonderland" fun-house. Uneven floors like ship decks and destroyed wardrobes could be charms of an elderly home. And, as English majors with active imaginations, we could definitely attribute Lincoln Inn's quirks to the precipitation and gravity gnomes. However, no gnome would threaten the structural integrity of our home!

Recently, our shower threatened to fall through the ceiling. As members of honor houses, we pay the same room costs as those bunked up in Ytterboe. We pay the same amount, and our world may literally crash down.

On Oct. 4, 2007, Kelin noticed that no caulking lined the bathtub containing our shower. Immediately, she wrote her concern on the custodian notice sheet. We would like to state that the custodial staff of Lincoln Inn has been incredibly accommodating, and at no point do we blame them for any of our suffering.

Five days later, on Oct. 9, the rain dripped through our ceiling, leak-ruining Margaret's entire wardrobe. As soon as Margaret discovered the problem, she called public safety and was transferred to facilities, where she left a voicemail. Next, she called Dean of Residentice Life Pamela McDowell, who was not yet in her office. Margaret and her roommate assembled an ad-hoc garment rack, and transferred their browning clothes from the closet to the hallway. After the rack buckled under the weight, house president Erica Jaastad made room in her own closet for the damp clothing.

Margaret made another call to the facilities office and spoke with office coordinator Margaret Wolf, who explained that the carpenters already had a long list of assignments, but they would be over soon. Later, Margaret contacted McDowell, who explained the St. Olaf policy on storm damage. Residence Life graciously covered Margaret's exorbitant dry cleaning bill. Unfortunately, residence life could not provide the hours lost by a senior racing toward midterms.

Throughout first semester, Kelin monitored her sinking bedroom. Each time she entered her room, her left foot hit a floor three inches lower than her right foot. She felt like she was swapping a poop deck, which always brought to mind the obnoxious senior-year metaphor of a ship lost at sea.

In addition to her quick-sand living situation, the bathroom adjacent to her room was also falling into the foundation. Every shower was a drunken shower, the uneven bathtub floor throwing those tiredly bathing off-balance. Indeed, for evidence, one only need consult the poop track down the right side of the toilet bowl.

Due to the lopsided nature of our bathroom, and a bathtub too small to house a shower, the leaking water would collect outside the base of the bathtub. However, there was no caulking to keep the water in the bathroom. For goodness-knows-how-long, the forgotten water from every shower crept into the ceiling above our dining room.

And Kelin's comment on the board remained unanswered.

Two weekends ago, the sky fell. It rained in our dining room.

The drips began slowly. Fastly focusing on her MCAT practice test, our housemate didn't notice the first few drips. She unconsciously heard rain, but didn't realize that the drops falling on her head until the shower showered down on her practice books. The house threw a screaming fit and threw the bathing housemate from her steamy stupor.

Housemate Emily Segar '09 again, with facilities on speed dial, logged our detrimental complaint. A few hours later, public safety came. Apparently, should the ceiling cave in and the adjoining rooms empty into our kitchen, this little bearded officer was all the college could provide for our protection.

However, his purpose was purely investigative. Would St. Olaf want to waste their plumbing staff on a gaggling group of college girls crying wolf? With the verification of our officer, facilities sent the plumber a few hours later. He was very accomidating, and caulked it right up.

However, our ceiling and floor continue to rot.

In reference to the early damage to Lincoln Inn, Associate Director of Residence Life Charlie Potts said, "There are old ceilings in the residences. When there is a driving storm, it just happens." However, Potts emphasized his confidence in the integrity of all residential hall buildings: "The buildings are old, but not too old."

There are many items on the wish list for residential buildings, but Assistant Vice-President of Facilities Pete Sandberg said, "We don't have tons of funding, so we place an emphasis on basic needs." Windows are the first item of business in Sandberg's list of "big system stuff." In the long term, he plans to install new windows in two or three houses each year. Lincoln Inn is still waiting for windows to prevent the blustery drafts also caused by our broken fireplace flue. We would argue that our electrical wiring is a "big system" issue. In order to plug in anything, we're forced to buy electrical adaptors -- it's like studying abroad. Indeed, what could be a more serious systems problem then the incompetent smoke detectors that failed to alert anyone when Segar walked into the house, which was coughing with smoke from a minor fire. The fire was blazing, but the alarms were not.

However, a recent issue of the St. Olaf Magazine presents another viewpoint on honor house maintenance. According to a feature article on partners in annual giving, $30,000 was allotted for new windows in honor houses during the 2006-2007 fiscal year.

Yet Lincoln Inn has not had any renovations, such as new windows or paint, in the past year. Residents of Lincoln Inn question why they have not seen the results of the partners in annual giving funds. "St. Olaf focuses so much on appearance and upkeep, but if you walk around any of the honor houses they look as if they haven't been touched in years," Segar said.

According to the Residence Life office, improvements are scheduled, but it will take some time for changes to occur. In agreement, another housemate, Ishanaa Rambachan '08 said, "Despite my sparse knowledge of home interiors, I am disappointed in the home due to the lack of basic securities, roofing, three-prong outlets, even floors and warm water."

Although top students compete to live in these residences, many honor house residents argue that the buildings should be condemned, not coveted. When residents are forced to fight the falling ceiling, where is the honor in honor houses?

Opinions Editor Kelin Loe '08 is from Denver, Colo. She majors in English and Asian studies with a concentration in China area studies.

Arts Editor Margaret Wade '08 is from Ames, Iowa. She majors in English with a concentration in media studies.

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