Massachusetts Daily Collegian

What are we paying for?

Campus dorms aren’t worth the cost

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What are we paying for?

(Will Katcher/ Daily Collegian)

(Will Katcher/ Daily Collegian)

(Will Katcher/ Daily Collegian)

(Will Katcher/ Daily Collegian)

By Sophia Corsetti, Collegian Columnist

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When I arrived at the University of Massachusetts for my sophomore year, I was so excited to be living in a sophomore dorm. MacKimmie Hall seemed like a tremendous upgrade from my freshman dorm. With bigger rooms and a close proximity to campus, I knew I wouldn’t have a single complaint. Though seemingly insignificant, these changes were important to me. So why was I planning to move off campus a few weeks later?

Within hours of moving in,  MacKimmie was already shaping up to be less than I expected. My friends and I witnessed a cockroach scurry across the hallway and crawl under someone’s door. We told our Resident Assistant, but, predictably, nothing was done. There was no hot water for the first three days after we arrived. This wasn’t a problem during the 90-degree weather of early September in Amherst. However, the lack of hot water – or water in general – would be a recurring problem throughout the semester.

Since the beginning of the semester, MacKimmie has had several incidents where there was no hot water for multiple days. The water has been shut down for hours multiple times to fix this problem, but it seems as though nothing has fixed it. No running water is more than a minor inconvenience when you have to leave the building to use the bathroom. Almost every shower my friends and I take stops running hot water after the first few minutes.

What’s more, when the cold weather arrived, the University took nearly a week to turn on the heat. Staying warm in the dorm I pay $3,534 per semester for should have been the least of my worries during midterms. Some of my friends were sick. One anonymous MacKimmie resident was so distraught that they posted handwritten signs throughout the building: “Turn on the heat!”

Luckily, MacKimmie does have an amazing team of maintainers who work hard to clean the building. Possibly, part of the blame for the lack of cleanliness could fall on the residents. A friend of mine in MacKimmie told me that one morning, four of the six sinks in the men’s bathroom were filled with vomit. Residents are also responsible for maintaining the cleanliness of the building. Unfortunately, there are few ways to hold residents accountable in situations like these.

I’m aware that a lack of hot water and mold in a college dorm is absolutely the least of the world’s problems. With that said, $3,534 per semester, or about $883 a month, is simply unjustifiable for these standards. These problems are not necessarily a pattern across campus. My freshman dorm, Pierpont, was significantly better kept than MacKimmie. I recommend that, if UMass is not going to universally update and maintain their dorms, they should give discounts for certain dorms like MacKimmie. This is similar to how UMass charges higher rates for nicer dorms, such as those in the Commonwealth Honors College. What’s more, offering discounts could make the luxury of living on campus more affordable.

I genuinely enjoyed living on campus for my first year. Being close to campus where everything is happening is something I’ll really miss. I made the decision to move off campus next semester due to the high cost in return for low standards. I’m sure that many of these issues that I’ve raised do not bother some students. However, these were not the typical issues I expected to face in a dorm. I hope that UMass updates dorms like MacKimmie so that other students have an enjoyable, comfortable and clean living experience in the future.

It’s common knowledge that college dorms are not glamorous. Residence halls are meant to serve as the halfway point in housing between childhood and adulthood.  Most college students do not expect much from their undergraduate housing except the necessities. The thrill and freedom of living alone for the first time trump minor complaints about uncomfortable beds or noisy roommates. However, my experience with residence halls at UMass Amherst has been characterized by subpar standards of living. UMass must update their buildings to justify the current high housing costs.

Sophia Corsetti is a Collegian columnist and can be reached at [email protected]

5 Comments

5 Responses to “What are we paying for?”

  1. Chief Wahoo on December 4th, 2018 1:40 pm

    Ahhhh…MacKimmee. How I love thee. The freedom it represented shortly after being dropped off in the family minivan. Where many a scam was hatched and debauchery was a common occurrence. Where a drunk interloper, dubbed “The Urinator,” was forced by residents of the 4th floor to get on hands and knees, scrub and mop the “evidence” from the wall and carpet at 2 a.m. (with supplies commandeered from the locked supply closet), all while being showered with jeers, insults, threats, and a rousing rendition of J. Geils Band “Piss on the Wall.” Where the policy of co-ed bathrooms (yes, even the stalls) was a little too close for comfort at times. Where many late night pizzas were consumed following clandestine “late night” baking sessions at Pizza Hut long after the business had closed. Where memorable/regrettable late night liaisons took place and a laundry thief was once busted. Yes, the hot water often didn’t work even then….but we were thankful not to live in the tower where multiple geniuses lost their lives “elevator surfing” and inconvenienced everyone else who was forced to take the stairs.
    Southwest has been falling apart since the day it was built…in retrospect, hot water was over-rated.

  2. Evan Mestel on December 4th, 2018 6:04 pm

    Hi Sophia,
    I couldn’t agree with you more on this. I graduated from UMass in 2003 and my friends and I experienced similar problems living in the dorms with the hot water in the bathrooms and lack of heat and or A/C throughout the dormitories. More recently a UMaryland freshman died of an upper respiratory infection that she got sick from from the mold on the walls in her dorm room. It’s sickening to think that this is what parents are paying thousands of dollars in tuition for just to have their college kids endure this. UMass really needs to wake up and make the necessary improvements before it’s too late.

  3. asdf on December 5th, 2018 11:50 am

    There is a fundamental issue with the way that UMass is treating its buildings. I have had friends working in the dorms over the summer painting them and have heard how much work goes into those buildings. Don’t blame the hard workers that are trying to keep the buildings together, blame the administration that doesn’t want to pay to actually fix them.
    UMass sure as hell not going to stop admitting students at the rate that they have the past few years, therefore Southwest and the even older Northeast are going to stay in the same shape they are in. With the limited resources that they have for funding, facilities is doing all they can to keep those buildings in top conditions.
    The high ups at UMass decide to build new building after new building rather than maintain what they have. If your really want to talk about buildings that are falling apart, go and visit the Engineering Labs I building right off the engineering quad. Multiple times I have been in classes where ceiling tiles fall to the ground or the heat is stuck on and the professor ends class early. There is a systemic problem with the mindset of building without repair that comes from the very top. I wish more students cared about this mistreatment.

  4. Ed Cutting, Ed.D. on December 5th, 2018 11:15 pm

    This is a violation of state law. 105 CMR 410.190 requires hot water. Not providing it is as illegal as underaged drinking, UM admin can go to jail for this.
    .
    Where is the SGA on this???

  5. amy on December 6th, 2018 11:21 pm

    @ed cutting. It’s umass lol. But for students who have the unfortunate reality to live oncampus; they can ask the town of amherst for a housing inspection.

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