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Tuesday, May 11, 2021

Edens North residents discuss compensation for hot water failure

Two resident directors met with about 15 students in the main lounge of Edens North residence hall to discuss compensation options after they were left without hot water for more than month.

A proposed amount of 51 cents per day without hot water added up to about $18 per student, and was then rounded to $20 per student.

The outcome is a rounded figure from the utility cost for water during the time the outage occurred, said associate director of business and information systems for University Residences Kurt Willis. The decision was made by the Housing Leadership Team, said Willis.

The residents were given the option of adding $20 to their Viking Dollars, a prepaid debit amount loaded onto Western ID cards to be used at any dining location on campus or pooling it together to throw a larger event as a community. Some ideas included hosting a guest speaker, concert or catered outdoor movie.

Edens North resident Henry Pollet thinks the current proposed outcome of $20 is a joke.

“It’s really insulting for all the people who had to live here for over a month and were told to go down to the gym…to shower everyday,” Pollet said.

Residence director Richard Henderson and assistant director of residence life Scott Leppla hosted the meeting on Friday, Feb. 26.

But after 30 years at Western, Willis said this isn’t the first time something like this has happened.

“A flood here, smoke damage there, electrical issue there, certainly that happens when you’ve got so many spaces like we do it’s inevitable that something’s going to happen,” Willis said.

However, Willis said that as a part of the housing contract, the university doesn’t reduce or waive rent for any sort of emergency break or necessary repair.

The 2015-16 housing agreement stipulates that, “The University shall furnish heat, electricity, water and sewer services,” but also states that in the event of a temporary interruption of service, “The student shall claim no reduction or waiver of fees or other compensation, nor shall this agreement or any of its obligations be affected or reduced.”

With aging buildings and parts within university housing, instances like these will likely become more common in the future, however, Willis says that not all failures are the same.

“Assessing the condition of those key elements is important,” Willis said.

Willis said that a recent comprehensive facilities condition assessment of each building on campus identified items that needed to be fixed or replaced. For example, a heat exchanger unit similar to the one that broke in Edens North is projected to be rebuilt this summer in Nash Hall.

On Jan. 15 the head to a heat exchanger responsible for providing hot water to the residents in Edens North failed, leaving all 106 residents without hot water for a month and subject to shower in nearby residence halls or the Wade King Student Recreation Center. After a temporary fix, a custom-built piece was installed on Friday Feb. 19.

Resident Ian Stewart said he takes short showers and didn’t have a problem with the cold water.

“A cold shower is not optimal but I don’t really care that much,” Stewart said.

Stewart also said he was interested in compensation of $20 Viking Dollar credit if it becomes available.

Residents Zoe Castro and Morgan Ikemiya are not happy with the outcome.

“[$20] is not anything at all to having almost two months with no hot water in the winter,” Castro said.

“I think that the amount we’re paying to live in [Edens North]–$20–that’s not anything compared to what we’re paying,” added Ikemiya.

Director of University Residences Leonard Jones also said there is nothing in Western’s on-campus housing contract that mentions reimbursing students for any inconvenience due to accident.

“Anything that we do that’s outside of the housing contract is goodwill,” Jones said. “There’s nothing that’s a requirement.”

Due to a low turnout, the group of residents didn’t make a decision on Friday and decided to gather some more opinions from fellow residents and host another meeting next Thursday, March 3, in the Edens North main lounge.

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