Over the past month, Wellesley and the rest of the Greater Boston area have experienced unprecedented weather, even by New England standards. Around seven feet of snow has hit the area in the last four weeks and Wellesley has received one major storm after another. The large accumulation of snow at Wellesley has impacted our academic buildings and residence halls in a number of ways. Students in Stone-Davis, Munger and Beebe have complained of problems ranging from yellow mold forming on the walls to odd room odors to ceiling leakage problems. In several cases, students have had to relocate to a different room.
Iris Remillard ’18 arrived at her room on the third floor of Munger one evening in early February to discover intermittent dripping noises. Unable to find the source of the few droplets, she assumed that the problem could be attributed to her leaky radiator. After small puddles of water began appearing in her room a few days later, she became concerned and put in a work order.
Last Tuesday, the situation took a turn for the worse.
“I came back to the room that night and there were three separate streams of water. It was like a constant flow of water. There was a puddle on the floor and it [water] was seeping down through the floorboards onto the second floor,” Remillard explained.
The situation deteriorated further when a hole emerged in Remillard’s ceiling that night.
“There was so much water running down the wall and the ceiling was starting to sag. In one part it ended up breaking into a hole and it started to look like it was rotting and just moving really quickly,” Remillard recalled.
Remillard’s floormate Ianka Bhatia ’18 and RA Isabelle van de Walle, ’17 soon arrived at the scene at midnight. In the fifteen minutes that Remillard had been in Bhatia’s room explaining the situation, the hole in the ceiling had fully opened up and plaster began falling on Remillard’s bed.
Because it was too late to call maintenance, Remillard opted for a short-term solution. She packed up her ruined bedsheets, pushed her bed to another part of the room and stayed with Eugene Lee ’15 for the night. The next morning, Remillard talked to her RD Sarah Cooper about her situation, trying to work through possible long-term solutions.
Remillard rejected continuing to live in the room, noting that the situation was unlikely to improve.
“We are going to get more snow and if this is ice damming, it’s going to happen again. It’s not going to get any better, and mold is going to develop. I have asthma that’s sensitive to mold,” Remillard reasoned.
In the end, Remillard opted from moving from her Munger room to Tower. For the next six days, she lived at her cousins’ and grandparents’ houses 45 minutes from Wellesley and commuted to class before returning to campus on Monday night.
“I’d been off campus most of this time because I didn’t have anywhere to stay on campus and I didn’t want to sleep on somebody’s floor, that’s uncomfortable and awkward,” Remillard elaborated.
Remillard describes this difficult solution as painful but necessary.
“Because most of my family are teachers, they don’t have time during the day to ferry me back and forth, especially for a 45 minute drive. It was difficult for me and them and I felt bad asking for that, but I can’t just not go to class for two weeks, especially when a lot of my classes are really attendance-sensitive,” Remillard explained.
Remillard moved to Tower on Thursday after staying with a few friends on Tuesday and Wednesday. Her aunts and cousins drove to Wellesley and helped her move in.
Remillard has adjusted to Tower well and looks forward to a semester there.
“This is pretty much the same situation as the third floor of Munger, it’s almost all seniors, so I don’t think a lot’s going to be happening on this floor, but there’s a dining hall right down there, and there are friends down there, so it’s better. I think I’m going to be a little bit happier here,” Remillard predicted.
Jackie Vazquez ’18, Remillard’s roommate, recounted the experience from her own perspective.
“Maintenance didn’t really reply until a week or two later, when the hole started forming and it got bigger. Finally, we had someone come in, and there was more water coming in and flakes coming down,” Vazquez reported.
It was around this time at one AM that Remillard had to relocate her bed and sleep in another room.
Despite her roomate’s choice to leave, Vazquez decided to stay in the leaky room. Explaing her decision, she cited the difficulty of moving her possessions during the winter without a vehicle and her many class and extracurricular obligations as reasons to remain in Munger.
“I can’t deal with moving right now. If I move I don’t want to leave Munger because I don’t have a car, I’m not going to walk the boxes in the snow. The only reason my roommate did is because her aunt came and she could use the car,” Vazquez remarked.
Vazquez advises other students to avoid living on the top floor if possible, explaining that ceiling leaks are more common in old buildings with flat rooftops like Munger.
The College has responded to the ceiling leakage problems by working with Residential Life staff to secure temporary housing for affected students in different residence halls. Despite the leaks in Munger, several students have been relocated to the basement from other damaged rooms in the Quint area. More permanent fixes will be made once the snow begins to melt and the roofs dry more.
Icicles have also posed a challenge to students and other passerby, hanging from door entrances, residential hall windows and rooftops. Any icicles that have the potential to inhibit normal College operations are cut down by maintenance.
Until last Thursday, a large icicle around five feet long hung from the fourth floor of Pendleton West. After concerned bystanders alerted maintenance, the obstruction was safely removed by a worker who had to climb partially out of the window with a hammer whilst in accordance with standard safety procedures.
A few rooms in Pendleton West, including one of the art storage rooms, have also experienced leakages from ceilings due to the large amount of snow on the rooftops. Trina Learned, the Director of Operations for Facilities Management and Planning at Wellesley, explained that so many areas on campus were experiencing leakages because of ice dams, a natural phenomenon caused by low temperatures and extreme snow accumulation on roofs. Ice dams routinely freeze and thaw, forcing their way into roof shingles and around roof flushing. Upon contact with warm air, the ice melts and seeps into the ceiling.
While maintenance has been partially successful in removing excess snow from flat rooftops and fixing leaks by removing ice dams from the roofs, Learned noted that with the current weather, it is too dangerous for workers to physically remove large amounts of snow and ice from high roofs.
Learned quelled community concerns about permanent structural damage to the buildings by pointing out that none had occurred, with the exception of the partial collapse of a storage shed roof in the grounds maintenance department last Tuesday. Facilities Management, local Wellesley officials and campus administration are collaborating to plan the construction of a replacement storage facility.
Snow and black ice from the blizzard are also a recurring problem because they obstruct campus paths. To solve this accessibility problem, salt and snowplows are regularly used to clear the paths.
Learned encourages students to contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit the Facilities Management’s database for more information on campus incidents related to these severe snowstorms.
Photo by Lydia Han ’18, Assistant Photo Editor
Sabrina Leung ‘18 is the Digital Editor majoring in International Relations-Political Science with a minor in History. She is best reached at email@example.com or @sabrinatzleung on Twitter.