A little over a week ago, I, along with 78 other residents of Williams Hall, was told to vacate my space before the semester even had a chance to begin. Blindsided by promises that the building would be ready for occupation by Jan. 15, most of us were shocked by this seemingly sudden decision.
After receiving the call from Residence Life (ResLife) on Dec. 26, my roommates and I had been told that our apartment had sustained minimal damage from the reports building staff had done prior to the phone call, and that we could come into the building that day or the next to grab any valuables and personal belongings we may have needed. And so, my roommate and I hopped in the car and made the two-and-a-half-hour trek back to Williams Hall.
Initially, our apartment looked fine. Like ResLife told us on the phone, there was a bit of water by the door, and a water stain on the ceiling, but not much else appeared to be impacted by any sort of water damage. The only things that were completely ruined were a few papers and a sweater I had left on the floor — which I was willing to take the blame for, because why was there a sweater on the floor in the first place?
My roommate and I grabbed whatever valuables of our own and our other roommates’ that we could, thinking that we’d come back up to a Montclair State cleaning job on Jan. 15 – just expecting the water stain to be painted over or told that it didn’t pose any risk to our apartment.
With the lack of communication from the school, it really seemed like that would be it. However, I found myself back on campus on Jan. 8, three days before residents would receive any news from the university regarding their apartments. I was escorted into the building by a resident assistant (RA) to grab something I needed from my room.
When I entered the apartment, I think I went into shock.
Concrete walls were exposed, every piece of molding was ripped out and all of our furniture and belongings were covered in a thick coating of drywall dust if they were not directly under the plastic sheets haphazardly thrown across our beds. I had only gotten a quick look and taken a short video, since the overall mess that had taken up the place I had called home for the last few months overwhelmed me, and the workers in full PPE suits made me feel as if I was in more danger standing there than the woman I had spoke to let on.
Keep in mind, this was still before the university notified the majority of the displaced residents that they would have to move out.
The last communication I received was two days prior, saying that the building would hopefully be ready for occupancy on the 15th. As far as my knowledge goes, no residents were informed of the state of the building at this point which was further confirmed when move-out began on Sunday, and many were shocked by the wreckage left in their rooms.
Again, I acknowledge that my apartment was one of the luckier ones.
Our room didn’t see any large amounts of water, and no electronics were ruined by the excess moisture within the room. However, unluckily for us, the cleaning company or some other entity took care of anything that came out unscathed, covering it in copious amounts of drywall dust, breaking everything that could be broken or just performing vanishing tricks on any valuables left behind.
In addition to the carnage of ripped posters and broken soap dispensers around our apartment, we were gifted an empty two-liter bottle of Pepsi in our unplugged freezer, sitting atop the now-thawed shrimp cocktail tray that some may have considered a biohazard after sitting for an unknown number of days.
If I were under oath, I would swear on the Bible that not one of my roommates would consume Pepsi, so I know for a fact that it had to have been placed there by someone other than us.
Following this, as we split off to find our new housing assignments, my roommate and I were unfortunate enough to find out that not only had our assigned room been double booked; but that our bookings had been changed, meaning we were placed in doubles with random roommates.
Now, in any other circumstance this would be okay, but toting the contents of an entire room; plus half of a bathroom, a quarter of a kitchen and a common area into someone else’s room without warning just seemed inconsiderate to both parties.
I completely recognize that the pipe bursting may have been unavoidable, that the cleaning company has a very difficult task and that ResLife having to relocate 79 students halfway through the school year must have been a challenge, but come on. Pipe bursts like this happen at least once a year on campus, so why hasn’t Montclair State come up with a better way to handle this so that it alleviates stress from the affected students? Why was it my responsibility to double and triple check their work, to make sure my housing was correct, to make sure I even got housing, to make sure I could clear my entire day to come to move out and move back in?
If residents are not returned to our rooms promptly, Montclair State should be prepared to give full housing refunds to all affected. At this point, it’s the least they can do to compensate for their empty promises, utter lack of communication and absence of care for their residents’ personal items.