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Students discontented with housing conditions in PPR

in Around Campus/News by

The state of facilities of PPR have some residents expressing their discontent. The three building complex with a combined population of 116 students, home to mainly sophomores and juniors, is located not far from the construction of NPPR, which is set to be open for use in the upcoming semester. Some of the issues encountered by residents of the current complex, the most alarming being poor water quality, are thought to be attributed to the ongoing construction.

Jeffrey Tse ’19, a Green Advisor in Roberts, explained his discontent about living in his residence hall.

I dislike Roberts and don’t spend much time there. The floors and walls are peeling and old. My blinds don’t cover the entire window and don’t really work. The radiators make a lot of noise and are awful. The basement is disgusting.  It’s big which is nice, lots of space and the bathroom, albeit dirty is okay,” he said.

Daniel Siegelman ’19, another current Roberts resident, had mixed feelings.

“The bathrooms are kind of gross. It’s nice to have a personal bathroom, but it’s kind of moldy and not particularly nice, but whatever. There’s holes in some of the walls, but you can’t really do much about that,” he said.

Ty Clay ’18, a current resident of Dana, recounted his experience of living in Palmer last year as less than enjoyable.

“I didn’t like living in Palmer. There was no hall life: it was exceptionally quiet and it was absurdly hot. One time I almost had a heat stroke because it was just really hot. Around the first month or so we had to have four fans running at all times,” he said.

Clay went on to talk about an experience he said in regards to faulty pipes.

“[I] …didn’t really experience any mice or any bugs at all, and I lived very sloppily. Occasionally the pipes would howl. There was this one time where most of the people in our building had an investigation… we spent like 30 minutes wondering if we should call the cops or bust into someone’s room, but it was just the pipes,” he said.

Shortly after spring break when Roberts residents opened the taps in their bathrooms, the water either ran brown or didn’t flow at all.

I woke up in the morning and tried to get tap water, but all that came out was brown water. I left earlier, but my friends says that there was no water later,” Tse said.

Siegelman also experienced the same issue, explaining that it came with no prior warning.

“I turned on the tap and the water coming out was brown colored. I didn’t get an email about it, but apparently there was an email sent out about it to people who lived in Palmer and Pittenger saying that there was going to be some construction work and that it was going to affect the pipes. Roberts residents I don’t think received it, so it was a little surprising to turn on the tap and see brown water,” he said.

Unlike Roberts, residents in Pittenger and Palmer were forewarned about the change in water quality via email.

Neither Tse nor Siegelman contacted Swarthmore personnel to attend to the issue, as they assumed the issue would be temporary and would be resolved in time.

“I didn’t contact anyone because I figured it was probably just a temporary thing because I know they’re doing construction at New PPR. I went out to go to the gym and when I came back the water was totally fine. It would’ve been nice to receive an email about it, but it was a temporary thing,” Siegelman said.

Another Roberts resident, Maxine Annoh ’18, did not experience any changes in her water quality, despite her being on campus for the duration of break and the weeks that followed.

“That was not my experience, honey. After break, really? I don’t know what I was doing, but I didn’t see any brown water coming from my tap, and I was there the entire break, so I don’t know … Maybe I just wasn’t showering. But I was. I didn’t experience this,” she said.

There is no clear explanation as for why some residents in Roberts were affected by change in water quality while others were not. On the issue concerning the lack of a formal warning, Isaiah Thomas was contacted for comment but ultimately could not be reached. The problem with the water quality, however, has since been resolved.

 

New PPR Construction Continues; Student Feedback Requested

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In response to students’ inquiries about the construction of the New PPR (NPPR) dorm currently underway, Susan Smythe from Facilities Management held an information and Q&A session in Palmer Lounge Sunday night on how the project is developing. The few dozen attendees enjoyed snacks and could view the anticipated layout of NPPR on two posters behind Smythe. She described the vision the college had for the new living spaces and discussed with students their experiences and concerns of presently living next to the construction.

The entire building is expected to be completed in time for the 2016-2017 academic year.

“This time next year, people will be in it,” Smythe said.

Smythe first described the design of NPPR. The housing, located behind Palmer, Pittenger, and Roberts (PPR) dorms, will consist of three connected and cube-shaped buildings, labeled A, B, and C. Building B, linked to the other two, will have an elevator as well as a basement. Current construction is mainly preparing for this basement, which Smythe described is some of the most arduous work to be done. The space between the old and new buildings will become an open quad. The new spaces will hold common areas on the ground floor with large study lounges. Many rooms will have air conditioning, but it is not guaranteed throughout the whole dorm. The buildings will have windows with furnished terraces facing the baseball field. A student garden will be maintained adjacent to the buildings, and indoor bike storage will be available. NPPR will also be accessible with Onecard.

As for living arrangements, NPPR will hold 120 rooms arranged of suites. Building A suites will be confined to about five to six students, and building B will have about ten people on each of two floors. The bedrooms will have a desk and wardrobe and, as singles, may be smaller than other rooms on campus, in turn for more community space. Suite spaces will have a sofa, tables, chairs, and room for students to bring their own furniture if they wish. Like PPR, these dorms will be reserved mostly for upperclassmen.

NPPR is being developed with the college’s sustainability framework in mind. Water will be heated through solar energy. Some of the building is expected to run on solar electricity. Ground source heat pumps will be geothermal. Rainwater will also be collected for toilet water and flushing.

Smythe told students that the project is currently on schedule, but that delays are possible.

“We’re hoping we’ll be done [with construction] mid-July next year, so we’ll have time to move furniture in,” she said. “The schedule is a little tight, but is very closely monitored.”

Along with being informative, she stressed the importance of being transparent about the process and encouraged students to communicate comments and concerns.

After her presentation, Smythe opened the floor to questions. Conversation about the anticipation for the new future living options and also about living next to the ongoing construction ensued between students and the facilitator.

Smythe informed students that construction should start at 8 a.m. every work morning.

“If you see that or hear that not being the case, please let me know that,” she stressed, and apologized in advance for any rare occurrences of noise pollution. Smythe suggested students email her directly as soon as whatever construction-related disturbance happens. She noted that she communicates with the workers frequently throughout the day and he explained the value of having an open dialogue between students, workers and faculty leading the project.

“You’re also kind of eyes and ears for this project … and you can be a good source of information for us.”

Smythe also asked how she could update those living in PPR on relevant information. The group discussed possibilities for a website, bulletin board, or occasional emails to inform students of necessary details on the construction process.

Abigail Wild ’18, an RA in Pittenger, was please by the content of the presentation.

“I felt better informed after the presentation and excited about the sustainability initiatives, and the more developed off-campus community,” she said. “I think other than being concerned about construction, people are pretty excited.”

Sierra Bienz ’19, who lives in Palmer, appreciated the information she learned about the NPPR plan at the session.

“I didn’t have any idea what the building footprint or plan was going to be, so it was really interesting to see the architecture sketches.”

Bienz found the living arrangement for NPPR appealing.

“She’s really tempted me, the idea of single suites with a common area and air conditioning- it seems like it would be a very nice place to live.”

She also felt that living close to the construction was not an inconvenience, and that the leaders of the project valued students’ interests and concerns.

“I like being able to see the progress out my window,” she said. “It helps that [Smythe] is so willing to voice any concerns to the company doing the work.”

A final note Smythe mentioned was the importance of enhancing a sense of community for students living off-campus. She hopes the NPPR will offer more amenities and establish a stronger community for students living in these dorms.

A snowy winter, and some injuries to show for it

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An injured victim of the snow

The exceptionally high amount of snow this winter has made life unusually difficult for the college’s grounds crew and has led to ice-related injuries. According to Director of Public Safety Michael Hill, there were a total of 11 reported cases of slips and falls due to snow or ice since the beginning of the year.

Director of Grounds Jeff Jabco said that it has been particularly difficult to clear the snow this year.

“The problem with this winter is that we’ve had many snows and they weren’t melting in between so it just accumulated more and more and more,” he said. “This was one of the coldest winters that we’ve we had, so just with the accumulation it made it tougher, we don’t usually have snow still around at this time.”

After treating injured students, Worth Health Center asks them to fill out a report with Public Safety indicating the area where they fell, although the problem areas identified by these reports aren’t always addressed by grounds staff with the same urgency.

“When I do get a report from Public Safety, it’s not necessarily that as soon as someone falls that we go out and take care of it then because usually it’s campus wide,” Jabco said. “Every morning we would have my entire crew out taking care of icy spots, and certainly during a storm everyone is out. We try to pay attention to major pathways and at other times we know areas which typically have icy problems.”

Stephanie Wang ’17 sprained her ankle by slipping in the tunnel on the way to Mullan Fitness Center and found the problem area tackled at once. Upon falling, she was helped by grounds staff working nearby who also immediately salted the area where she fell.

Lanie Schlessinger ’15 broke her wrist and tore a ligament by slipping on black ice while walking down the hill between Dana and Wharton. She said, “I don’t think that they really confronted it. In fact, Public Safety seemed kind of uninterested in the report. I don’t think that there was anything that they could do.”

Jess Karol ’16, who slipped and sustained a wrist injury on the baseball field next to Pittenger, Palmer and Roberts, raised concerns about the conditions of paths not on the main campus.

“Given that there are over 100 people that live in PPR, it is crazy for the school to not have a paved path to these campus dorms. When other paved paths on campus were cleared and walkable, the PPR path continued to be like a sheet of ice and dangerous,” Karol said. “In a few instances, a school plow cleared the snow on the path. However, this only caused a Zamboni effect, making the path flatter and more slippery.”

Jabco said that the sidewalk and main pathways owned by the college, including those next to PPR and ML, are plowed. However, areas which are part of private property such as in front of condos and areas deemed inaccessible such as the woodchip path next to PPR are not maintained by the college.

Many students with injuries do not condemn the school’s policy of no college wide class cancellation which lets individual faculty make decisions about canceling class.

Brennan Klein ’14 injured his leg slipping on Magill Walk. “If they can clear the paths well enough, then they can have people go to class,” he said.

“I’m actually grateful that we don’t have to make up days that we took for weather conditions,” Schlessinger said. “I sort of wear it as a badge of honor that we go to class even when the conditions are terrible but undoubtedly there’s a safety hazard associated with that.”

Christine Song ’14 got a concussion after slipping in the tunnel next to the train station while on her way to class.

“I wish I took it easier after I fell, because I really do think doing all the work for my other classes made it worse because you’re supposed to cut down on cognitive activity when you have a concussion,” she said. “But I’m not going to blame the culture of Swarthmore necessarily, because I think it’s very endogenous in that we selected to be here and this is part of who we are, but it would be nicer if it was more acceptable to take it easy.”

Students continue to be appreciative of the effort put in by the maintenance and grounds staff, despite sustaining injuries. “I think that the college is doing the best they can,” Schlessinger said. “I think that they have really dedicated ground staff and facilities staff who have tried to make this as easy for the students as possible.”

The grounds staff is thankful for the students’ appreciation. “All my staff which is out clearing the snow, we have really appreciated the number of students saying thank you,” Jabco said. “When we’re out there clearing the snow and students walk by and appreciate the job we’re doing, that makes people feel really good.”

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