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Don’t burn down Pierce

Housing should do a better job of maintaining a beloved staple of campus culture.

It was just one of those Wednesdays. Having been up late working the night before, I hit the snooze button one too many times and got up just in time to run to my early class without a second to spare. Hungry and half-asleep, I did my best to stay alert through two lectures, but it was rough.

No matter, I thought. I’ll head back to Pierce, have myself a nice shower, and start this day over. It was to my great dismay and confusion, then, to find that the elevators’ desires that morning were not in line with mine and, later, that the bathroom faucets appeared to be spraying out flecks of a yellowish water-like substance that would bring even the most formidable of Brita filters to its knees.

As I sat in my room, nodding off, annoyed at the six flights of stairs I had just been made to walk up, and unable to shower for an as yet undetermined amount of time, I sincerely wondered what my life was coming to. It is impossible to fully grasp the existential crisis that can be triggered by reading on Facebook for the second time in a month that the bathrooms in your dorm are “exploding on people” until you have experienced it first-hand. I briefly considered hanging a heavy coat from the fire sprinkler on my ceiling, in part because maybe then I could have washed my hair, but mostly because at that point, why the hell not.

Exploding toilets, elevators that cop an attitude, and fire sprinklers that are more landmine than safety implement are just a few of the things you are missing out on if you don’t live in Pierce Tower. It is hard to imagine Max Palevsky or South Campus—those sleekly designed and built-in-the-last-fifty-years behemoths—inflicting such inconveniences upon their residents.

Instead, they are almost relentlessly lavish and accommodating. On the surface, there appear to be no tradeoffs involved with living in one of the newer residence halls. They have superb locations on campus, steps away from dining halls; they are massive enough to be nuclei of student life, and are blessed with rooms of such bountiful floor space that their beauty can bring tears to the eyes of Pierce residents.

Meanwhile, we in Pierce are admittedly blessed to have both a dining hall literally in our building (not just any dining hall, mind; Mongolian grill or Fourth Meal, anyone?), a great location in reference not only to campus, but also to getting away from it, and house lounges and traditions that foster a sense of community unparalleled by any other residence hall.

Yet tradeoffs abound. And while one or two of them, like the, shall we say, coziness of the rooms, are outwardly evident, these are not real problems and only add to the dorm life experience. After all, every residence hall that isn’t Max Palevsky or South Campus has similar gripes. For instance, I pity the far-flung few in Breckenridge, Blackstone, and Stony Island, who daren’t leave a problem set behind.

Such foibles are inherent in each residence hall and should not be objects of complaint. What I view as fair game for criticism, particularly with regard to Pierce, are the maintenance issues that interfere with student life far more often than they should.

It is worth noting that the above anecdote, which took place during fifth week, is true. The incidence of toilet explosion and subsequent half-day loss of running water was the second such occurrence of fall quarter. While in hindsight it makes for a comical story, at the time it was quite inconvenient. There were myriad others who were troubled by it, and the elevators malfunction regularly enough that I’ve gotten used to it by now. So I don’t feel too bad for myself.

Rather, I feel bad about what has been allowed to happen to Pierce Tower. The frequency of plumbing and elevator malfunctions, along with other issues like the hypersensitivity of the antiquated fire sprinklers, point to an overwhelming state of decrepitude that threatens to cast Pierce Tower into Mugatu’s Derelicte line. It is actually the case that fiddling with one of the sprinklers will activate it and lead to flooding and thousands of dollars in damage for which the offending resident will be responsible. It is one thing to consider things like distance from campus and room size as inevitable but acceptable examples of unfairness in the housing system, but these problems go beyond that.

Clearly, the maintenance staff at Pierce is not to blame for these problems. They are the ones who are left to fix the cascade of problems that plague the building and, frankly, the fact that they do so is enough to warrant their worship. Instead, the University must take action to remedy Pierce’s underlying decrepitude to keep it a serviceable home for students. While rumored plans for another massive, flawless residence hall on the north end of campus would likely make Pierce redundant, this should not grant the University carte blanche to ignore it in the meantime.

If Pierce Tower is allowed to die the slow death the University seems to have fated for it, a lot of history, traditions, and future quintessential college experiences derived from its character will be lost. And for what? Another glass-walled building from the future? No thanks.

Ajay Batra is a first-year in the College.

  • Ex-Max Resident

    Max only has fewer perceived maintenance problems because of its relative youth. My house’s RHs gave us the same spiel about the hypersensitivity of the fire sprinklers upon move-in, there were often particulates of some sort in the water coming out of the faucets, and the fancy UCID-activated door locks would fail at least once a year – usually because the battery needed to be replaced. The only issue you cited that appears to be Pierce-specific is the toilets, which I guess is avoided by Max’s person-to-toilet ratio of under 4. But, yeah, I guess once you learn to sleep through the industrial-strength cougar-growl emitted by the toilets and the frequent false fire alarms Max isn’t too bad in comparison.