Cramped Campus

UNDER CONSTRUCTION: A view of the AEPi fraternity house on Wentworth Street. The College deemed it unsafe to live in over the summer. (Photo by Ebony Davis)

UNDER CONSTRUCTION: A view of the AEPi fraternity house on Wentworth Street. The College deemed it unsafe to live in over the summer. (Photo by Ebony Davis)

The city of Charleston is known for its lack of space on the peninsula, but lately the College has had plenty space issues of its own.

Beginning last summer, many groups of students have been misplaced from their previous on-campus housing arrangements. None of the residents of the AEPi fraternity house, several school-owned historic homes, and Rivers Residence Hall, are able to live in their assigned homes.

All are living in temporary housing assignments, and all have had different experience with being “homeless.”

The AEPi house on Wentworth Street was supposed to house six fraternity brothers, but they could not move into the house because it was deemed structurally unsound over the summer.  Josh Goodman, a sophomore, was supposed to be the House Manager for AEPi.

“I got an email about a week before I was supposed to move in, saying that the house wasn’t structurally sound,” Goodman said. “At first I was pretty upset and angry. I didn’t feel like they gave us much warning.”

Goodman and his five house mates learned that they would be relocated to the Hampton Inn on Meeting Street until the necessary repairs could be made. They were also supposed to have a kitchen in their house, so the College compensated them by giving each student a $20 daily stipend in Dining Dollars.

“Things have been great so far. We’ve been accommodated very well… I think [the school’s] done a good job,” said Goodman. “At first, everything was chaotic. Everyone was like ‘this is going to suck.’ [But] it’s been fun… We definitely utilize the pool as much as we can.”

In addition to the pool, the fraternity brothers also have access to a maid service, laundry service, and free continental breakfasts.

The AEPi house is scheduled to open up on Oct. 1, but Goodman is not optimistic. There’s still plenty of work to be completed on the house. “It is getting kind of old… [But] I wouldn’t mind living [in the hotel] for a few more weeks.”

Elizabeth Cerier, junior, was supposed to live on 70 Coming Street, but she and her nine other housemates were also emailed this summer and informed that there were problems with their historic house. Many of the houses needed electrical rewiring to bring them up to code. The email told the residents that the updates would take longer than expected.

Cerier was told they could us another on-campus option, or cancel their contract. “It was to hectic to try to find a place to live last minute, so we decided we would [live] in a dorm for a month, and it’s been two and a half months [now],” Cerier said. The date they could move in to their historic home was pushed back from the original time of Sept 15 to Oct. 30. “This is a month and a half later than we expected,” she said.

“There are things about the historic houses that I really liked, like we had someone who came and cleaned our bathroom every week. And it’s a lot closer to everything.”

An even more drastic situation has recently surfaced with the Rutledge Rivers Dorm.

Residents there were first alerted to a problem at the beginning of the semester when a small piece of ceiling fell in room 208 of Rutledge. Bravada Hill, a freshman resident of 208, said, “I was here [when the ceiling fell] . It came down on my toe,” she said. “There’s a lot of mold in [the hole].”

After the results from a recent inspection came in the morning of Sept. 12, it was discovered that the structural integrity of the ceiling on the third floor was beginning to fail. The insulation around the pipes in the ceiling had worn away, and the condensation was saturating the ceiling.

When Rivers was built, asbestos was a common material used in insulation. When contained, it poses no risk to inhabitants. But asbestos released into the air is known for causing lung problems when breathed over a long period of time. Parts of Rivers tested positive for asbestos. Officials worried that if there was a ceiling collapse, asbestos would be released into the building.

“Nobody in Rutledge has been exposed to an environmental hazard,” said President of College of Charleston, George Benson, at a recent meeting for all residents of Rivers. The third floor was evacuated on a precautionary basis.

Residents moved out the night of Sept. 12 to open on-campus rooms, and twelve were moved to the Hampton Inn on Meeting Street, the same location where the fraternity brothers from AEPi have been living since the beginning of the school year.

Ben Stephens, sophomore, was one of the residents relocated to the Hampton Inn. “We had about five hours notice,” he said. “I just threw my stuff in boxes… whatever I managed to get my hands on first.”

Stephens said however that he didn’t feel neglected by the school. The school contracted with a local moving company, and provided a moving truck and boxes to help the residents. Dean of the Honors College, Trisha Folds-Bennett, along with Jeri Cabot, the Vice President of Student Affairs, both stayed late into the night on Sept. 12 to help the students move out.

Stephens appears happy with the recent move. “The pool is awesome… there are more pillows [in the room] than I know what to do with.”

The rest of Rutledge residents, all 100 students, currently are planned to be moved out on Sept. 22. They will be relocated to other dorms on campus, and some will be clumped into local hotels; some possible locations are the Hampton Inn, the Courtyard Marriot, and Embassy Suites, all located within walking distance of campus.

Rivers Residence Hall will be closed for the remainder of the academic year, so it is likely that students moved to hotels will remain there until the end of spring semester.

Melantha Ardrey of Office of Residents Life commented on the recent housing issues. “We never want issues with our facilities to affect a student’s experience. Unfortunately we had some unforeseen problems arise right at the start of the school year and shortly thereafter. Our top priority is safety, and we determined that the nature of the issues and the repair work needed could well develop into an unsafe environment,” she said.

“We’ve understandably heard some concerns, but mostly the reaction has been overwhelmingly positive. The students have banded together to help each other get through this, and it’s been amazing to watch… We all have a mutual concern for our community and you can see that.”

Additional interviews conducted by Olivia Cohen and Sarah Sheafer.

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