March 6, 2012

Residence evil

The University must move forward quickly with plans to restore and replace Pierce.

Certain things are synonymous with the U of C: the Core curriculum, academic rigor, and, for the roughly 250 students who reside in Pierce Tower, exploding toilets. Plumbing issues in Pierce, such as a lack of hot water and even complete water outages, have persisted throughout the year and resurfaced last week. In response, administrators have been meeting with Pierce residents to reassure students that the University is committed to listening to and addressing resident concerns. Although administrators should be applauded for these communication efforts, the University must work quickly to develop and implement a long-term solution to these pressing residential issues while ensuring that Pierce residents are adequately provided for in the short-term.

The Maroon reported Friday that Pierce residents were promised a litany of renovations to be made over spring break, in addition to the requisite summertime plumbing fixes. These accessory improvements—including fresh paint jobs and carpeting in common areas—must be a refreshing prospect for residents of the aging building. However, student committees and the administrators working with them should not become self-congratulatory about the headway they’ve made. The University should be held accountable for its negligence and must do all it can to ensure that such problems do not occur again in other dorms. The issues that have plagued Pierce this year should not have occurred in the first place, and students and administrators now face the task of navigating a difficult transitional period from Pierce to new housing developments.

The University should therefore view this situation as an opportunity to be open about Pierce’s immediate future. Though long-mooted plans for a new dorm have been confirmed, the University has never laid out a clear timetable for its construction or for Pierce’s closure. With this new wave of difficulties, however, it has become clear that Pierce’s time is coming to an end. The University should therefore make plans for a new dorm without delay, and be as transparent as possible throughout this process so that a prolonged closure does not burden Pierce residents with any further disturbances.

With those goals in mind, the University should continue to foster the positive aspects of its efforts thus far. Some of the most promising steps administrators took last week were guaranteeing that students have a voice in proceedings and will remain abreast of progress. Along these lines, administrators should keep students informed over the summer about Pierce’s substantial renovations and its timetable for new housing. These efforts would demonstrate that the University is serious about rectifying its mistakes while taking advantage of increased dialogue to build a better future.

The U of C places a large emphasis on the house system and its professed benefits for undergraduates. Unfortunately, as a result of the Pierce plumbing fiasco, housing has become a negative experience for a large number of students. Going forward, it is imperative that the University not only focus on remedying the most serious issues that have dogged Pierce, but also reassure students that it is dedicated to preserving the strength of housing after Pierce.

The Editorial Board consists of the Editor-in-Chief, Viewpoints Editors, and an additional Editorial Board member.