On Feb. 3 at 7:29 p.m., the first of many Cazenove Hall residents noticed an odd smell of gas. Carolyn Hohl ’25 wrote to the Cazenove GroupMe:
“Does anyone know why the first floor smells like gas …? just wondering if it’s a safety concern.”
Cazenove House President Charity Daramola ’22 saw the messages while off campus at a concert and notified Campus Police, Emergency Facilities and Community Director Paula Queenan about the situation immediately, all of whom responded within 10 minutes.
“There was some issue about whether we want people to evacuate, and my instinct is, let’s evacuate to be safe,” Daramola said. “You never know.”
At 7:42 p.m., Daramola issued the first of many emails urging students to “go outside of Caz.”
Taylor Quaye ’24, a Cazenove resident, was in the shower at the time of the email and did not have access to her phone.
“Someone walked in the bathroom and was like ‘Hey, I don’t know who this is, but we have to evacuate,’” Quaye said. “And so I just started panicking. I was like ‘Oh no, are we gonna die?’ -– I mean that sounds a little bit dramatic, but the way people were talking was making it seem very intense.”
She said she felt very alarmed about getting out in time and grabbed chargers and other supplies, fearing the evacuation would be long. She was especially worried because she had to evacuate her roommate’s cat. (She asked us to note that the cat’s “name is Oscar, and he is a menace to society,” which added to her difficulty in removing him.)
She brought Oscar to Pomeroy but had concerns about the safety of students in the dorm due to its connection and proximity to Cazenove.
Daramola made note of this concern, but said they were operating under the impression that the building’s systems were not linked. They were quickly informed that Cazenove did not have the type of system that could lead to a natural gas leak.
Casey Bayer, director of media relations at Wellesley College, released a statement that “the Cazenove building does not have any natural gas supply,” and thus there could not be a gas leak. However, staff were still sent to determine the cause of the smell.
Daramola wrote in a follow-up email that the culprit was determined to be hydronic oil from the elevator room. At 9:20 p.m., Daramola informed their residents via email that it was safe to return but not to use the elevator as it was in need of repair.
Quaye stated that the situation is “indicative of a bigger issue” regarding maintenance. She says the elevator situation could probably have been prevented, a point that Daramola echoed. Quaye pointed to additional problems with the water fountain on Cazenove’s third floor and the washers and dryers and said more “urgency” could be placed on addressing maintenance concerns on campus.
“Given the resources we have, [the gas leak scare] was handled correctly,” Quaye said.