By Julia Waldow
Broken window screens, insects, dust, overgrown weeds and a wobbly staircase welcomed E-Block residents moving into their New Apartment (New Apt) at the beginning of the 2013-2014 academic year.
“The apartment still required hours of cleaning just to make it livable,” former E-Block resident Jack Vallis ’15 said. “There was about an inch of dirt in the bathtub that I had to scoop out, there were spiders everywhere, there was mold growing inside the cabinets of the bathrooms. I must have put in four or five hours of cleaning [a day] for like two or three days just to get it ready.”
Due to its poor condition, E-Block was demolished over Thanksgiving break, despite an ongoing plan to renovate many of the New Apt buildings. The demolition, planned since last semester and initially set to begin this past summer, cost $12,000. No plans to use the space currently exist.
According to Chief Business Officer Mark Kohlman, plans to knock down the building began last spring, when the College took a closer look at its bed capacity and the amount of money it had spent on maintaining E-Block, as well as the Gambier Grill apartments.
“They were probably the two worst places, state-wise, and some of the worst housing that we had,” Kohlman said. “Instead of investing tens of thousands of dollars into renovating those places, [we decided to] just take them offline [from the Housing Lottery].”
Last year’s E-Block residents repeatedly notified the Office of Housing and Residential Life (ResLife) about the building’s conditions. While Jack Frasier ’15 said that “if we did make a complaint, they did make an attempt to fix it,” the residents often had to do more than file a work request. Vallis took pictures of E-Block to send to ResLife upon being told by a staff member that “New Apts are an issue but no one’s ever taken care of it.” His roommate’s father even emailed President Sean Decatur after seeing E-Block.
“The next day, they had people in there [fixing] it,” Vallis said. “I just don’t understand why it took [a parent] mentioning something for it to happen.”
Despite acknowledging E-Block’s inherent problems, the College billed the residents with a “laundry list of cleaning charges” last summer and gave them mixed messages about E-Block’s future, according to Ben Grindle-deGraaf ’15.
“We’re like, ‘What are you talking about? Why are you cleaning it? You told us you were going to tear it down,’” Grindle-deGraaf said. “They told us, ‘No, no, we’re gonna save it. We’re not going to tear it down.’ Well, they tore it down.”
Associate Director for Housing and Residential Life Lisa Train wrote in an email to the Collegian that “residents were told that the plan was to have the building … demolished (pending enrollment numbers).” She added that because E-Block could have been used for summer camps or conferences, residents “would be held to the same standard of any necessary cleaning and/or damage charges that other students are held to at the end of the year.” After talking with ResLife, the residents were no longer charged for damages.
Kohlman explained that the rest of the New Apts will eventually be demolished within a decade, but that the College still needs the buildings’ beds for current students.
“[We’ll need] at least 75 beds until we can realistically consider removing [New Apts] from the Housing Lottery,” Kohlman said.
The master plan, a campus renovation plan that would create more dormitories in the First-Year Quad and potentially free up spaces in Mather and McBride Residence Halls for upperclassmen, affects this timeline.
“If we do even half of what’s been proposed in the First-Year Quad, there would be enough beds to take New Apts offline,” Kohlman said.
The College plans to renovate the remaining New Apts this coming summer.