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Common Problems

By Cameron Meyn

The Commons photo via

Nestled in the western corner of Purchase lies four blocks of buildings, surrounding a grassy courtyard. Often you can hear students coming and going, talking about anything from their dance class to the conspicuous absence of Terra-Ve and how crowded the Hub is now during mealtimes.

These buildings are the Commons, what Purchase itself calls “the most unique living experience on campus”. And in a sense, it is; no other dorm on campus is designed like them.

But depending on who you ask, the Commons is unique in other, less gratifying ways.

“I don’t mind living here,” said Robert Olsen, a Commons resident. “I really like the lawn and the rooms. It’s better than Crossroads, but it’s still not perfect.”

Old gum on the carpets photo by Cameron Meyn

Being among the oldest buildings on campus- the Commons were initially built in the early 1980s- the complex is starting to show its age in several ways. A cursory glance at several spots in any of the Commons’ dorms demonstrate that it has endured generations of students. The floors and carpets show great wear and tear, such as burn marks and fossilized gum, the furniture has holes from extinguished cigarettes and joints in them, the electrical outlets struggle to hold appliance plugs, and evidence of culinary experiments gone horribly wrong are present in the kitchen.

The wall right next to the stove photo by Cameron Meyn

Although the conditions of the residence halls-save for the newest one, Wayback-are well-worn but livable, many residents often find that their dorms are often imperfect. As reported in a Purchase Phoenix story last month by Reneé Medina, a student arrived in their dorm at the Olde, only to discover that their stove needed replacing due to how much it sparked.

“When I got here one of the showers wasn’t working,” said Olsen. “We had to put in a work order to get it fixed. Even then, we still have issues with water pressure; we get more hot water than cold in the kitchen sink.”

Given that the Olde and the Commons are similar in age, it's no surprise that some of their features need some maintenance. Although students are able to put in work orders for such repairs, Olsen feels that the college isn’t doing enough in between and even during semesters in order to make sure that the dorms are in the best shape they can be for their next residents.

“They need to be doing all this stuff before we come, not while we live here,” he said.

Other Commons residents feel more strongly about the current condition of their living accommodations. Cooper Drummond, despite having newer wooden floors in his dorm, has some decidedly negative feelings about the Commons.

A crack in one of the bathroom doors photo by Cameron Meyn

“Purchase built these things with no care,” he said assertively. “You can easily hear people on the other side of your street when they blast music.”

Like Olsen, Drummond used to live in Crossroads, but he feels his current housing isn’t much of an improvement.

“I usually end up hanging out with my girlfriend in Wayback; I really wish I lived there.”

Another issue that affects Commons residents is the lack of air conditioning. Although students are allowed to bring fans, AC units are strictly prohibited, meaning that during the first weeks of the fall semester and the closing weeks of the spring semester, the rooms get uncomfortably hot.

“It was brutal when we moved here,” said Olsen. “We couldn’t sleep and we were constantly sweating, too.”

The kitchenette floor showing several burn marks and a partially missing panel right next to the stove photo by Cameron Meyn

In spite of the resident’s complaints, however, Capital Planning has done some good for the Commons. According to Michael Kopas, the head of Capital Planning, the college has installed sprinklers on all the streets, following a sizable fire on K-Street that occured in 2016.

“Installation of the sprinklers were part of a final phase for installing sprinklers in the complex,” Kopas wrote in an email. In a recent forum from last month Kopas also claimed that due to the Commons’ age, AC units would be incompatible with the dorm’s electrical systems, and therefore wouldn’t be financially viable. Furthermore, the college is speedily restoring a dorm that was damaged in a fire last September.

“I don’t get why Purchase doesn’t care much for the Commons,” said Olsen, “yet they micromanage so many little things that could really help us out.”

*All photos by Cameron Meyn are of his Commons M- street housing unit



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