Colby students, especially those who were here pre-pandemic, are unfortunately no stranger to dorm damage. Last winter, the week before finals, Goddard-Hodgkins, a dorm on Frat Row, affectionately known as GoHo, experienced its second flood in recent years.
“It was last December. It was the week before finals… and all of a sudden the fire alarm was going off, and we thought somebody had just set it off,” said Mandie Lisco `24. “But then we opened our door – we were on the second floor at the end of the hall, I was in a double, and we opened the door and there was water rushing out of [a student’s] room because he had hung something off of the sprinkler spigot from the ceiling and it came off. All the water that was supposed to come out of every sprinkler came out of that sprinkler at one time…” she continues to explain. It all came out in his room, but clearly it hadn’t been cleaned or used in a really long time because he was covered in sludge. Black sludge. And I’m pretty sure that was like rust buildup or something. We really had no idea what was happening.”
Lisco and their roommate, Serena Blasius `24, experienced the flood firsthand as water gushed into their room and covered their floor.
“On the first floor there [were] about five inches of water, and water was streaming out of the ceilings. On the second floor where it happened, there [were] about two or three inches of water on the ground. It was seeping through from the second floor,” says Lisco.
With the first and second floors of the building succumbing to water damage, the residents of these floors were moved off campus to the nearby Best Western while the College facilities assessed the damage.
“Everything below the second floor was damaged, and the third floor was fine, so everyone who lived on the third floor could stay there the whole time, but everyone from the other floors had to go and stay in the Best Western for a few days. It took a while to dry it out. They used industrial strength fans and they had to peel up the trim,” says Blasius.
Because the disaster happened so quickly, Lisco and Blasius left with very few of their belongings.
Although they had just experienced this disaster and were forced to move into a hotel for five days, administration had not aided the students in reaching out to their professors for extensions and missed classes.
“I ended up asking for extensions on two of my finals and the other two were exams, so I couldn’t really ask for extensions on those. It was pretty inconvenient I would say. It was really difficult to get back into the dorm and get textbooks and course materials and anything I needed for studying,” explains Blasius.
In addition, since most people did not have cars, they had to advocate for themselves to get the Colby shuttle service to pick them up from the Best Western. Lisco, luckily, did have a car and was able to take themself and Blasius to and from school.
“I assume they had to connect more directly with the shuttle service and be like hey, when are you guys coming, because… I don’t know what the shuttle schedule was. There was a lack of communication for a lot of this,” says Blasius.
In addition, there were no accommodations made for meals during this time.
“They didn’t really help with food; they gave us a meal voucher for a breakfast at the hotel which the hotel didn’t really honor… And [those] who [relied] heavily on the meal plan to get all of [their] food really struggled with that,” says Lisco.
While the students were at the hotel struggling to get through finals, the College’s administration and facilities got to work to dry out the entire dorm. Since the flood did not affect the third floor, residents of this section of GoHo were forced to continue living in a water- damaged building. Luckily enough, facility’s inspection of the walls left them confident that they were able to address the damage quick enough that no mold would grow.
“They told us very bare bones ‘we need to test the humidity in your walls,’ and we didn’t know what that meant… it would have been helpful to know they were going to slice holes in our walls… it was only the size of like a few postage stamps. They tore up all of the trim on the baseboard… they tore it all off the walls and they cut holes under it… So we came back and all of our stuff was moved around; it was all on our beds. It was just very violating,” says Lisco.
The students were able to fully move back into their dorms after winter break only to find holes in their walls and the baseboards ripped out. The couches that once resided in the basement common room of GoHo were water damaged, as were the walls and the ceilings. Many students, especially those in the first floor rooms where water seeped down from the ceiling, lost many belongings during this disaster.
“We went up to our rooms with the insurance representatives and we pointed out all the things that were damaged or destroyed by the flood, and I guess they were going to try to give us money to buy new stuff. We never got any of that, it sort of fell through,” says Lisco.
Blasius also recounts attempting to reach out to Campus Life to followup on the reimbursement plan but not making much progress.
“I remember trying to follow up for reimbursement because I was abroad for Jan Plan, so I wasn’t really around to like advocate for myself in person. I emailed them once and they didn’t answer, and then I called Campus Life… I emailed them a second time and they were like oh you need photos…” she explains. “They came in and took pictures of the damaged things during the initial evaluation period directly following the flood… but then when I followed up they were like can you send us a list of items, the cost of these items to replace them, and photos of the damage. So then, I didn’t follow through because I didn’t have photos of all the things I had thrown out.”
A spontaneous disaster like this one obviously came as a shock to everyone involved, from students to facilities to administration. GoHo still shows signs of the damage to the walls. It is substance-free and upperclassmen only this year, presumably in an attempt to save the building from more damage.
~ Mahika Gupta `23