What are we paying for?

Campus dorms aren’t worth the cost


(Will Katcher/ Daily Collegian)

By Sophia Corsetti, Collegian Columnist

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]