Res. Life damage policies scrutinized

The oldest residence houses on campus are almost 60 years old, and throughout the years the dorms have almost all experienced some sort of incident, from minor leaks to flooding to mold growth. Problems like this are common across colleges everywhere, no matter a building’s age. But how does Wake Forest handle these types of issues?

In the Residence Hall and Dining Agreement that every student signs prior to arriving at Wake Forest, the general conditions states, “The university is not responsible for the loss

Photo courtesy of Residence Life & Housing

Photo courtesy of Residence Life & Housing

or damage to items of personal property of the student in the residence halls, luggage rooms, or on its grounds before, during or subsequent to the period of the Agreement.”

This statement is repeated again and again throughout Wake’s website.

While some students may feel that this policy is unfair, especially in cases involving non-preventable incidents such as flooding or leaks, other universities including Virginia Tech and The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill follow similar guidelines.

“It’s pretty much the standard across the board for higher education,” says Frank Shelton, director of housing.

While Wake Forest itself does not have a property insurance plan, the Residence Life and Housing website does inform students about the Student Personal Property Plan, offered by National Student Services Inc. The plan and organization are not affiliated with the university, but information regarding the insurance can be found at the Office of Residence Life and Housing.

The housing office does actively help to try to prevent damages, especially mold. At a student’s request the university will provide a free air purifier to be used in a room to help limit mold.

Residence Life and Housing also informs residents of many ways to prevent the growth of mold, including keeping wet clothes and towels out of closets, closing windows, and not obstructing the air conditioning systems, to name a few.

In incidents of mold growth, Shelton explains, “The university follows the mold management plan that is outlined by the EPA and the CDC guidelines.” For mold that covers less than 10 square feet of space, the university itself cleans the mold out of the area and ensures that the space is safe, relocating the residents until the issue is handled.

Freshman Emily McCarthy, a resident of Bostwick, has had multiple issues regarding leaking in her room. The ceiling of her room began leaking from a crack in the air conditioning in the room above hers, and at another time her own air conditioning leaked, creating a large puddle in her room.

“They eventually handled it,” McCarthy says. Though it took some time, maintenance came to her room to assess the problem and managed to solve both issues. “They fixed it, and now everything’s fine,” McCarthy says, “so no complaints.”

However, sophomore Anne-Levert Lederer had much more severe damage occur in her dorm. The sprinkler system in Kitchin went off, causing her room to flood completely.

“All of my clothes and belongings were still in the closet and the officers were standing outside watching it all happen. I had to ask many times for help to remove my belongings from the closet to save them,” she said.

No one has been informed yet as to what set off the sprinkler system.

“From my understanding Wake only cared about damaged furniture and electronics, basically any items over $100. This did not cover many of my clothes or shoes that were damaged by the water,” said Lederer.

She has filed a claim through her personal property insurance and is still waiting to receive compensation.

“[The administration is] probably more concerned than anybody else. As a parent I know what my worries are for my own child. I ask myself daily how I would feel about my child living in this space, and so I try to extend the same care and concern for those 3800 that are here as I do for my own,” Shelton said regarding concerns over the possibility of similar dangerous events.

While the university is under no obligation to reimburse a student for property damage, Wake Forest does what they can to prevent and to handle issues that can interfere with the students’ lives, especially when it threatens the safety or health of the residents.

“Every day brings a new challenge,” Shelton says, “and it really takes the cooperation of the administration at Wake Forest, the folks in Residence Life and Housing and the students all working together to make sure that we all have a clean, safe and healthy place to live, work and play.”

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Copyright 2018