Leak in Willets Causes Some Ceiling Collapse

Editor’s note: This article was initially published in The Daily Gazette, Swarthmore’s online, daily newspaper founded in Fall 1996. As of Fall 2018, the DG has merged with The Phoenix. See the about page to read more about the DG.

Ceiling damage caused by leakage in Willets

Willets’ third floor has reported several leaks that appear to have been caused by rainwater dripping through the ceiling. Maintenance has reported making repairs on September 15, however, the first test of the Willets’ roof will be the next rain shower and many students have voiced concern.

“The story of the leak,” writes Willets Third resident Jean Dalhquist ’11 in an online interview, “is that it rained… a lot… and then there was a piece of ceiling on the floor the size of a small child and our own little lake.” Leaks have been identified in both bathrooms as well as the central stairwell.

Robin Collin ’11, another resident first noticed the leaks about a week ago, “The ceilings began to leak the first rainy day we had since school began. The leak in the girls’ bathroom is right next to the lights near the toilet stalls and the paint is peeling off the ceiling. Whenever it rains the floor is drenched in water and the same occurs in the stairwells.”

Swarthmore’s Director of Maintenance, Ralph P. Thayer, was first made aware of the leak on September 8 and identified the problem as “a section of metal called a termination bar which binds the EPDM rubber roof membrane to the coping (topmost part of the exterior wall).” The roof repair company then made repairs on September 15.

Thayer elaborated that while EPDM is a common roofing material that resists the sun’s heat well, it is difficult to patch with tar products and must be “absolutely dry and clean to affect repairs.” He explained, “In a rain storm with an active leak that’s a real problem.” Willets’ roof is scheduled to be replaced in a few years, the current roof dating to 1990.

Some students, however, are voicing concerns that more attention should be paid to these kinds of maintenance issues. Jake Mrozewski ’11, citing leaks in Willets and Sharples, states, “For a school with such a high budget-to-student ratio, problems that affect day-to-day living seem to take longer to address than things like landscaping ‘issues.’ Why do kids pay so much if the paint is peeling in the dorms and the roofs are leaking?”

Willets Third South R.A. Kelsey Hatzell ’09, offers a somewhat different perspective: “The leak has been somewhat of a bonding experience on Willets Third South. It promotes daily conversations on which area to be especially cautious about in terms of ceiling fragments cascading from the walls.”


  1. While I realize that the school’s large endowment and “high budget-to-student ratio” is often cited in regards to various issues, I think this issue (and others like it, i.e. the Sharples leak) is just embarrasing.

    On the other hand, I rarely see students making any exceptional effort (or any effort at all, perhaps) to take care of the dorms for future classes, or for themselves for that matter. Maybe someone should start a group for that too.


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