Editorial: New residence hall problems are getting old

Absence of exhaust systems in the kitchen have left students facing the threat of frequent fire alarms for over a month

Students that moved into the on-campus apartments at the New Residence Hall, known as the Apartment at 1576 first saw a modern-looking fireplace in the lobby.The ugliness of the situation they have been forced into could not have been more ironic. As The Observer reported, soon after students had finished moving, they faced four fire alarms in the span of 24 hours.

A member of the Editorial Board visited the apartment of a student who wished not to be named. When the student had first moved in, they had immediately noticed the exhaust was missing and emailed housing, saying that they believed it to be a fire hazard.

The student received a terse reply, “No, there were no fans planned for over the stoves in the new hall.”

The kitchens of these apartments do not contain exhaust systems above their stoves. Instead, there is simply a smaller cabinet higher-up above. Without this necessity, it is no surprise the fire alarms from simply cooking are routinely started. Even though Housing claims to have installed a form of ventilation, which they have opened in response to the high rates of alarms going off, students see no improvements in these rates.

Four weeks ago we described these problems in an Observer news article. Still, there has been no great solution offered.

The Editorial Board holds the Case Western Reserve University administration and Housing responsible for the problems students living at the apartments continue to face. There is no good excuse for the apathy from the administration.

If Housing had mentioned any solutions that were being considered, the Board would not be commenting on this.

Well, that is, solutions other than opening a window. On Sept. 23, Housing did send out this suggestion in an email to the residents. Yet, they were met with another problem. The new apartment—which students have already paid so much for—only has windows that open about half a foot near the bottom. This is not an adequate solution, and will be useless once winter arrives; promoting this increases the risks of pipes bursting.

In addition to inadequate ventilation, the kitchens were given chairs instead of bar stools for the bar, and mediocre soundproofing of the rooms has garnered complaints. But these are minor issues compared to the one at hand.

To add fuel to a fire, the student’s—whose suite we visited—thermostat was broken when they moved in. Due to this, the heat constantly blasts.

When the student begins cooking, the room is already hot. Smoke clouds their kitchen and sitting area. Pollution does not promote education. It’s easy to tell these students not to cook, but many are not on a meal plan and have not been offered one by the administration as a solution.

However, the largest danger is not for lack of food. Constant false fire alarms means that students will not evacuate when an actual fire is occurring. The fire alarm becomes not a signal of danger, but the boy who cried wolf. The burden on the local fire department is clear: When the abandoned Little Italy building burned to the ground earlier this semester, a false alarm at the apartments diverted fire department resources to what was probably burnt macaroni and cheese.

To get these students on a meal plan would be the first step for the administration and Housing. The administration must work with Housing to ensure that adequate ventilation is installed.

Despite the problems being clear for over a month, no attempts at actual solutions have been made. Even if they have, there has not been communication to the campus community.

It is ineffective to ask students to essentially solve the situation by themselves, when asking them to open windows that barely open, or to cook without occasional smoke. It is placing the blame off of the building’s design, and onto the students who pay to live there.

At this rate, the new residence hall’s problems are getting old.