By Andrea Corona
One doesn’t need to spend more than five minutes scrolling through the SUNY Purchase Open Forum to run into countless housing horror stories. Students are constantly reporting mold, broken furniture, lack of heat, among other things. Although administrators say they are working on it, things don’t seem to be getting better.
Last year, I served as the President for the newly formed Resident Student Association (RSA), a position that allowed me to work towards improving the overall quality of residence life. After having this position at another school, I was hopeful about the possibility of making visible changes on campus and leaving Purchase a little better than I received it.
Every month, we held in person open forums, where students were encouraged to come and report to us what things we needed to bring to the administration’s attention. Students reported being charged thousands of dollars mistakenly for damages, moving in to dirty rooms with trash left from the previous semester, being brushed off by administrators when bringing up issues in their rooms, and unlabeled items at food dining facilities.
Although it was evident to me that there was a systematic problem at place, I didn’t grasp the severity of it until I experienced it first hand, and saw how lack of communication allows for these issues to keep taking place.
As a part of my RSA job, I spent breaks on campus, and on January 3rd, 2018, I woke up to the fire alarm and freezing water rushing through the ceiling and into my apartment in Alumni Village. Nothing could have prepared me for what would happen next.
University Police Officers showed up with an RC and I was placed in an empty room in The Olde, with a few other students who were also staying on campus when the flooding happened.
The apartment, meant for emergencies, had no bedsheets or pillows. I wondered how they expected students to sleep on a bare mattress with nothing to stay warm. I mostly wondered about what had caused the flooding.
Then I remembered that earlier that day, somebody had knocked on my door to offer me a space heater, which I had found strange considering they are not allowed on residential spaces. Facilities turned off the heating off the buildings and when temperatures hit a record low that night, pipes exploded.
Over the week, I was placed in a hotel for a night after the emergency apartment also lost its heat and came back to find that all the belongings I had saved from the flooding had been mistakenly thrown away.
When I called the RC, I was instructed not to call the number again unless it was an emergency. When I called Corey Dawkins, director of residential facilities on campus, I was told he had no idea what had happened to my things.
I was the president of the organization that meant to advocate for student’s rights, and suddenly I felt like I needed someone to advocate for me. When I finally moved into my new spring placement, there was dog droppings on the carpet and trash in the room. Nobody had inspected the space before giving me the keys.
After this experience and finishing my responsibilities as RSA president, every housing horror story I hear or read pains me more. It hurts because I understand how adrift one can feel navigating the confusing branches of administration whose work is supposed to be to help students.
Just recently, Big Haus lost its heating and students had to live in cold temperatures. Posts made by students reported that some plugged in hair dryers, bought external heaters or even went home to avoid the cold. Students shouldn’t have to go anywhere. From the moment classes start until move out day, Purchase is their home. Why can’t we do better?