Torn-apart furniture, chipped paint, and 30–40 poop pellets from an unknown animal. That was the first impression College third-year Jack Povilaitis got of his Union Street house while moving in early this August. Povilaitis remembers the dismay he felt the first time he saw his bedroom.
“The room was very dirty,” he said. “It clearly hadn’t been cleaned.”
He later learned of another issue with the house: mold in the air conditioning ducts. Over the summer, Povilaitis’ roommate developed a wet cough. After the College hired an outside company to remove the mold, she started feeling better. While a little bit of dust is understandable, the filthiness of their house made it uninhabitable and dangerous to live in. Students shouldn’t have to physically suffer from the College’s negligence.
Given the messy state of his house, Povilaitis reached out to an independent cleaner, who helped improve the condition of the space. While Povilaitis was able to find a solution to this issue, it should have been the College’s job to take care of this living space. No student should feel that they have to resort to a private cleaning service when they are paying not to be burdened with such uncleanliness in the first place.
For an institution that boasts 87 percent of students living on campus, there need to be better housing options. Oberlin College shouldn’t market required on-campus housing to prospective students if this is the type of living environment being provided.
College fourth-year Aesha Mokashi experienced similar issues before moving into a house on West College Street at the start of summer semester. Before arriving on campus, she received conflicting emails from Residential Education telling her to move into Fairchild House instead of her home on West College Street.
Upon moving in, Mokashi and her housemates discovered that the house was not ready for them to move in.
“There was definitely some extra cleaning we had to do once we got into the house,” she said.
Mokashi and her roommates found coffee grounds on the floor of the kitchen, as well as several structural problems. The floor of the upstairs bathroom was entirely rotted through, and gutter leaks caused the downstairs ceiling to mold.
“When it would rain, we could see the ceiling bulging in,” Mokashi said.
Mokashi and Povilaitis’ complicated move-in processes reflect a larger issue of disorganization in ResEd. The transition between the summer and fall semesters gave the administration less than enough time to prepare for students’ arrival. This caused a strange limbo period. Students living on campus in-between semesters, including athletes, moved in at staggered times and often had to live in temporary housing.
“I can sympathize with the College and understand that it was really difficult to turn things around quickly from the summer term,” Povilaitis said. “There’s only a month, and then athletes stay for preseason.”
Another impediment to ResEd’s organization was the number of first-year students arriving in the fall.
With a class size of 871 students, adjustments had to be made. Fairchild House was turned into first-year housing, and mostly first-years moved into mixed- year housing like Burton Hall. It’s possible that this resulted in ResEd’s attention being scattered across campus, forcing Village Housing students like Povilaitis and Mokashi to be ignored.
As a first-year student myself, I can say that I had a relatively easy experience moving into my traditional dorm. No first-years I know walked into an unclean room on move-in day. ResEd has clearly put more energy into certain buildings and living spaces than others.
Oberlin students, regardless of their class year or where they live on campus, shouldn’t be forced to take on the responsibilities of ResEd and Facilities Operations. It is on the College to provide us with adequate living situations and to take on issues such as mold and leaking before we move in.
When planning the summer term, the administration should have considered the impact it would have on housing. After all, according to the ResEd website, Oberlin is a “residential” college that believes “that living and eating together fosters a strong community.”