On Sept 17, Cushing House Team, driven by a series of housing issues within the dorm, passed a resolution demanding better living conditions.
The resolution covers a wide array of issues that, although not new, have come to a head for residents this year. It decries conditions in Cushing as unfair given the $11,980 students are charged annually for Room and Board, particularly in light of the failure of the Office of Residential Life to live up to its promise for an effective, seven-days-per-week housekeeping service for each of the dorms and understaffing in Buildings and Grounds.
As a response to these problems, the resolution lists student expectations for what the quality of living in Cushing should be, such as getting prompt responses to service requests and infestation reports, regular cleaning and restocking of bathrooms, fair treatment of the custodial staff, and increased communication between residents and maintenance staff. Cushing House President Anish Kanoria ’18 explained in an emailed statement, “Conditions, in terms of pests and the lack of bathroom necessities, this year have deteriorated significantly when compared to last year. The problems of cleanliness, broken furniture and the like have been enduring issues that, in my opinion, should have been addressed earlier.”
He continued, “We believe that the recent instances of wasps frequenting our bathrooms and residents having to buy their own pest-control spray are examples of how the college does not provide us with the basic services we pay for. Cushing House Team decided to take a stand now because we felt the conditions in the house posed a real danger to the health and safety of our residents.”
According to Kanoria, drafting of the resolution began when House Team members reported multiple complaints about house conditions from residents at their “House Climate” discussion, during which Cushing House Advisor Anders van Minter suggested creating a resolution. With House Team approval, a working group was formed to draft this resolution, which was quickly passed.
Van Minter offered his support, commenting, “I appreciate the clear articulation of student concerns that the Cushing resolution brings forward. The most important thing ResLife can do is to ensure that residents have a safe and secure living and learning environment. As such, the biggest issue that ResLife needs to address in Cushing House is the establishment of clear communication between students, the house team and B&G around issues of safety and security.”
He continued, “ResLife needs to continue to help the Cushing house team build a house culture where residents take pride in their living environment, hold each other accountable for maintaining a healthy environment, and report issues they are aware of appropriately in a timely manner. Additionally, ResLife needs to continue to support residents of Cushing, and advocate on their behalf when necessary.”
Anticipating a critical response from administrators, Kanoria noted that, though it is students’ responsibility to keep their own spaces clean, the problem is far deeper. “Some of the issues we raise, like wasps and the lack of toilet paper in our bathrooms, does not fall under the purview of the residents,” he noted. “These are larger structural issues about the rate of response to complaints, such as the crumbling infrastructure of buildings on campus (especially dorms) that have not been renovated and the way the college chooses to spend our money.”
Kanoria also pointed out that while the Resolution is specifically written about Cushing House, many other residential houses deal with similar living issues, especially the older dorms that have not been recently renovated. Main House President Mark Lawson ’18 commended Cushing House Team for the passing of the resolution, asserting that their concerns apply to his constituency as well. He commented, “Main is experiencing a lot of similar issues within our walls, and so drafting a similar resolution is definitely a possibility. To provide residents with the best possible living situation, as well as giving custodial staff the appreciation and resources they need, well, I don’t see who suffers from that. There is room to improve, and I applaud Cushing for taking this first step.”
While some of the other dorms, like Jewett House, have recently been renovated, students living there as well have taken up the cry for better housing conditions. Jewett House President Kohei Joshi ’18 remarked, “I have never considered asking for the same in Jewett, as we have been renovated recently and do not have lots of the problems Cushing has. Sometimes, some of our bathrooms do get skipped in terms of cleaning and replacing paper towels and toilet papers, though I found that talking to the building manager and the cleaning staff themselves has been very effective. I think that fostering a good relation with these people first can be a very effective solution.”
Cushing’s resolution was soon passed on directly to Director of Residential Life Luis Inoa, Director of Operations Jeff Horst, Dean of of Strategic Planning and Academic Resources Marianne Begemann and Vice President for Finance and Administration Bob Walton. As of Sept. 21, Inoa has responded to the resolution with a few updates. Via Inoa, Buildings & Grounds had reported that after walking around the dorm and checking nine of Cushing’s 12 bathrooms, they found all were fully stocked and clean. With the exception of one clogged water fountain, they reported that all seemed to be in order with the bathrooms.
ResLife reported, however, that they would commence pest control starting Monday night at 7:30 p.m. in two of the Cushing bathrooms. Inoa also reported that he is set to meet with members of ResLife, Buildings & Grounds and Cushing House Team to address housing condition concerns.
In addition to the efforts put forth by Cushing House Team, VSA Operations Committee is currently working out a more thorough resolution covering student housing concerns across campus.