It’s no secret that the houses surrounding campus are pretty old and, of course, with old age comes wear and tear. This past weekend on St. Patrick’s Day, a railing on one of the Wittenberg houses collapsed, causing a student to fall from the balcony to the ground below, suffering various injuries. This isn’t the first time a student has been hurt, or would have nearly been, because of the poor structure of the Wittenberg houses.
As previously mentioned, this is partially due to the natural aging of the houses and the wear and tear of students living in them year after year but, ultimately, this is a university issue. The houses that are immediately surrounding campus are (for the most part) owned by the university and students simply rent them from Witt. With that, the upkeep of the houses is the university’s responsibility.
Wittenberg cannot afford to have students suffering major injuries due to the lacking functionality of their houses. These same students also cannot be held accountable for dropping hundreds or even thousands of dollars to have railings replaced due to rotted wood or replace broken or sagging floor boards. This is up to the university.
During both of my now two years here at Wittenberg, I have attended parties where students are dancing in the living room of the house and myself, as well as any other bystander, could visibly see the floor moving up and down with the weight of the students. Now, I know, of course, that houses aren’t meant to hold students in such a close capacity and to that magnitude, but the floorboards shouldn’t be buckling under the weight of the students so easily.
I have also heard stories of poor/malfunctioning plumbing and broken AC/heating units from students that don’t host parties and from students that have newly moved into the house for the year. This means that they didn’t cause the problem; the house was given to them in that condition. Situations such as these are things that the university, or Physical Plant, should find when they inspect the houses each year after the students move out for the summer.
Another issue with the condition of the houses is concern from the parental point of view. I know that if my parents found out that I was going to be living in a house where someone had recently fallen off the balcony because the railing broke or that the floorboards are rotting through, they wouldn’t be happy.
The university has their hands tied in terms of breakage to the houses that have been party houses year after year. The university simply cannot afford to replace floorboards and railings every summer after the students living in it spent the year damaging it. But, where exactly is the line drawn? If the university can’t/doesn’t want to pay to keep the houses in decent condition then that situation is just asking for someone to get hurt.
The other major factor of this issue is the students. I know that some houses on campus have been a part of, for example, certain fraternities for years now, and have become part of the chapter in a way but, at some point, the house needs a break. We, as a student body, need to learn to find the balance between being able to have people over for parties/do fun things at our houses and learning to respect the property because, ultimately, the students don’t own the houses/apartments that they are living in.