Columbia has responsibility for UC complaints

By Zoë Eitel, Editor-In-Chief

You know, when I started my job at The Chronicle, I never thought I’d have to say this: Fake rats should not be left in student apartments after renovations.

It’s unclear whether the toy rat was left by the renovators, a resident adviser or someone else who got into the apartment while the rooms were vacant—but the rat was just the tip of the iceberg.

As reported on the Front Page, renovations to the University Center have been going on for months now, and some students who had to leave their apartment for three–four days returned to trash, missing or broken belongings, and an all-around disaster zone.

Along with students who spoke to The Chronicle about their experiences, many others took to social media to share their horror stories. A broken iMac desktop, missing Gucci cologne, eaten snacks, missing weed—which albeit wasn’t supposed to be there anyway—furniture glued to the floor, a pillow under the bathroom sink and, of course, the fake rat are some of my favorite complaints. This would be a hilarious prank if it wasn’t so disrespectful to and unnerving for those students.

Students were told in emails that they needed to remove valuable items from the apartments and clear the floors and walls of any belongings. But the emails said nothing about students having to remove their food from their apartments lest it be eaten by renovators. And the emails definitely did not warn that any clothes left behind would be thrown haphazardly around the living quarters.

What the emails to students did promise was that the rooms would be left in clean and livable conditions. “Once work is complete, all areas affected will be cleaned. A UC staff member will do a final inspection to ensure quality and cleanliness are up to the high standards we expect,” the emails stated.

Obviously, that didn’t happen, unless those high standards include one resident’s pistachio shells being strewn on the floor of another resident’s home.

While Columbia no longer owns the UC after its sale in summer 2017, it still has a responsibility to make sure students feel safe where they’re living in the housing it provides. Just because ownership has shifted and the renovations weren’t commissioned by the college doesn’t mean Columbia gets to wash its hands of the situation and basically tell students, “Sorry, not our problem. Talk to this person.”

This is not the type of environment any college should provide for its students. From the social media posts and the interviews with some residents, it’s clear that students feel uncomfortable and unsafe in their homes now. It’s even worse that the college didn’t comment on those students’ feelings and instead directed any questions about the renovations to the UC’s exective director and added that students should alert campus security any time they feel unsafe.

These students want to know what Columbia is going to do about this problem in one of its residence halls. And they don’t care who technically owns the building. They care that Columbia organized this housing for them and has subsequently left them hanging.

The Chronicle did speak with the UC’s executive director, who said the ratio of complaints made by students to the number of units renovated was low, so the renovations should be considered a success. But that ratio doesn’t mean anything if students who experienced these issues didn’t know what to do about them.

I wouldn’t consider anything about this situation a success. No matter how many rooms turned out beautifully after the renovations, students should never have to worry that they or their belongings are in danger in college-approved housing. And more needs to be done to help these students whose belongings are missing or broken.