Coleman: The trials of first-year living

Kehley Coleman, Staff Columnist

A few days ago, I woke to shouts of jubilation in the hallway outside my room.

“There’s hot water,” the girls next door cried out joyfully.

From my room, I couldn’t help breathing a sigh of relief. For Storrs House had spent the previous 36 hours without any hot water in any of its bathrooms, a source of great frustration for all of its residents, myself included.

My experience in Storrs—and, from what I have heard from students housed elsewhere, the general experience of first-year housing—has been somewhat tumultuous. When I asked other Storrs residents for their perspectives on first-year housing, they clamored for me to share the injustice of the “Hot Water Debacle,” as if I would have overlooked such a recent burden. There were complaints about damaged ceiling tiles, old and broken couches in the common areas and peeling paint.

Personally, I’ve found myself annoyed by the highly ineffective hand dryers in the bathroom. It seems like a small thing, but spending months walking out of a bathroom with hands that are still damp after being held under the dryer for a full 30 seconds becomes irritating rather quickly.

And of course, there is the lack of air conditioning, an issue not unique to the first-year residence halls, based on what I’ve been told by several of the second-year students I’ve spoken to, but a major issue nonetheless. I understand why the university has not made adding air conditioning to these dormitories a top priority. After all, the dorms stand unoccupied for the hottest months of the year. And in any event, this is Cleveland we’re talking about—how bad can the heat really get?

Well, if you’ll pause for a moment and think back to around two months ago, you may recall that it can be fairly bad indeed. I understand that a few hot weeks at the beginning and end of every school year probably don’t justify the cost of installing air conditioning systems in every university owned building. However, that doesn’t mean I have to like spending 80 degree nights in an air conditioning-less building designed to shelter its inhabitants from Cleveland winters.

One of the biggest issues I have heard about, though, is the matter of inequality between different first-year dorms. The issue isn’t with the price. Some of the dorms, I have heard, are significantly better than Storrs. Granted, my knowledge of many of the other dorms is extremely limited, but I believe it is fairly safe to say that there is a definite difference in quality between some of the buildings. Some of the buildings, such as Taft House, have been renovated relatively recently, while some others appear not to have been updated in any significant manner since their erection in the 1960s. Again, I myself have not had much exposure to the interiors of these supposedly “nicer” dorms, but the fact that they are universally and vehemently described as better by other residents of my own dormitory strikes me as more than just a classic case of “the grass is greener on the other side.”

Yet, the room rates for the renovated and the un-renovated dorms are exactly the same, something that strikes many of those living in the older buildings as deeply unfair. It seems as though, if there is truly a real difference in room quality, Case Western Reserve University should adopt the practice used by many other universities, in which room rates vary depending on which building the room is in.

For all my frustration with the first-year housing and with Storrs in particular, however, there are some ways in which living in a residence hall has not been as bad as I anticipated. I am deeply grateful, for example, about the fact that our laundry machines do not require quarters to operate. Not because I feel as though I am saving money, but because it is simply convenient to not have to constantly have coins on hand. Although I do wish there were more than three machines to a building housing this many people—I’ve found myself having to do laundry at 11 p.m. on weeknights on more than one occasion to avoid the crowds.

Likewise, I appreciate Storrs’ quad-style layout, which means that the bathroom entrance is only a few steps outside my door within a relatively private cluster, rather than all the way down a long and public hallway. And, perhaps most importantly, I’ve found commiseration with my dorm-mates about the various day-to-day horrors of life in our dearly beloved Storrs House to be an excellent bonding exercise.

It may be cold comfort as we mourn our predicament, but it has proven somewhat comforting nonetheless.

Kehley Coleman is a first-year student planning on (maybe) majoring in chemical engineering. When not in class, she can typically be found reading trashy teen fiction and/or in rehearsal for something or other.