The Maroon reported today that the University has agreed to compensate students living in Pierce Tower. Housing Administrators responded to residents’ outrage over living conditions in the building by replacing the furniture, paint, and carpeting over spring break and plan to make major facilities improvements over the summer. On top of these renovations, each of the four houses in Pierce was given $25,000, effective immediately, with each resident receiving a $500 credit usable at campus bookstores. While Pierce residents are right to feel vindicated, the University’s decision to assuage students monetarily sets a somewhat risky precedent and is an insubstantial gesture given the scale and nature of the problem.
The value of compensation per resident is about $850, which is the approximate cost of a Pierce room for one month. Although this compensation has been provided to redress student anger at Pierce’s relative state of disrepair, physical comfort is not the only aspect of life in Pierce that has suffered. One cannot help but think this gesture, in part, assigns a monetary value to the kind of good housing experience the University promotes, yet feels Pierce students have lost out on. The decision to remunerate those unhappy with housing therefore sets a troubling precedent for any similar problems which may arise in the future. Given the University’s negligence of Pierce, there is little evidence to suggest it will steer clear of all such issues down the road. The messy issue of assigning monetary values to housing grievances is now a possibility.
The University also said yesterday that Pierce will remain open next year. Prior to this announcement, it was mooted that Pierce houses might be transferred wholesale to other residence halls—namely, I-House or New Graduate Residence Hall. While it is at least positive that Administrators have revealed a short-term answer to the question of what the future holds for Pierce, students are still left wondering whether the dorm will be around in the coming years. The University, with its continued lack of answers and unwise decision to put a dollar value on how sorry it is, has lost sight of what should be its real focus: re-instilling trust in its house system. If anything, these solutions are even more unsettling, as they perpetuate the sense that the Housing office would rather throw money at problems after they occur than work proactively on long-term maintenance issues.
As a new set of admitted students prepares to matriculate in the fall, the University should do all it can to restore faith in housing. Administrators should be open and expeditious about formulating their plans for on-campus housing after Pierce, whatever they involve. If the University can demonstrate a commitment to the quality of housing by showing not only that the Pierce fiasco will not be replicated, but also that there is a suitable plan in place for future housing construction, it will go a long way toward fixing a problem that can’t be swept aside for the price of a few textbooks.
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