I-House residents petition for improved conditions

By Lokchi Lam

Mice in the kitchen, feces and urine smeared all over the bathroom floors, and noxious fumes emanating from the radiators of International House (I-House) have caused a small group of residents to circulate a petition in an effort to alert the administration of the situation. According to residents, the petition requests additional housekeeping and engineering staff as well as a solution to the problem of paint fumes coming from the radiators.

Robert Wood, an I-House resident, said he decided to take action after seeing a mouse while eating in the dining hall.

“I think if health inspectors had come in it would have been closed,” said Ralph Schwartz, another resident. “The management is running the place down.”

William McCartney, the director of I-House, said that pest control had been called as soon as he received reports of mice.

“No matter where I’ve been, kitchen cleanliness is a huge issue,” he said. “That’s a large challenge when we have a kitchen that’s utilized 24 hours a day by students who realize they don’t have to clean up after themselves.”

“On the fourth floor the toilets are backed up on a regular basis and there are feces and urine on the floor,” said Wood, adding that it had taken three days for the mess to be cleaned up.

McCartney said the problem had to do with more than just clogged toilets.

“Someone has defecated in one of the bathtubs and it’s been smeared all over the place,” he said, adding that he had no explanation for this incident, although in his time as a housing director he has “occasionally [had] people who, for whatever reason, do really aberrant things.”

Andy Gill, secretary of the Residents’ Council, said he agreed that I-House residents were partly to blame for unsanitary conditions.

“I don’t want residents to think cleanliness is the responsibility of the staff,” he said. “I also think it’s an opportunity to educate residents on cleaning up for themselves and to respect other residents.”

McCartney also revealed that he had laid off a housekeeping staff member because of rising energy costs and severely reduced occupancy caused by the ongoing renovation, resulting in a $900,000 deficit.

“One of the most important things we do is to attempt to keep the building clean for our residents, and well maintained,” McCartney said. “There’s a lot of challenges to that with a building this size. There’s always something breaking, always something that needs to be cleaned.”

Francis Soya, president of the Residents’ Council, said he was concerned with the I-House administration’s priorities.

“The question is, are they really putting us on the back burner? The management is more concerned with making money profits,” Soya said.

Soya added that he felt the social atmosphere of I-House was disappearing because of the facilities.

“As much as I like this place, I don’t want to recommend it for anybody else,” he said.

When asked what action he hoped to trigger from the University administration, Schwartz said, “The residents have grounds for a class-action suit if necessary. I hope they fire Bill McCartney.”

Hank Webber, vice president for Community and Government Affairs, said the year has been challenging for I-House with the construction project.

“I believe that I have great confidence in Bill McCartney,” Webber said.

Malou Innocent, tribune of the Residents’ Council, disagreed with Schwartz’s sentiments. “I don’t think he’s done anything so egregious he needs to be fired,” she said, even while acknowledging that the I-House administration was often “unresponsive to resident complaints” and that they operate “like they don’t realize there are people living in this place.”

Gill added that although the I-House administration has been “very vague” and “not forthcoming,” he saw efforts being made at communication with residents.

Schwartz, however, maintained that McCartney was the main cause of his dissatisfaction. “If he stays here, I won’t. No, absolutely no.”

Innocent said she felt that some of the residents’ actions were motivated by personal feelings. “The situation is like a different combination of complaints, personal issues, and overzealous people.”