Students need safer housing, both on and off campus
Since last semester’s tumultuous housing selection process, the issue of student housing has been at the forefront of our minds. Though worries remain regarding the potential of a housing shortage in the future, it is also important to acknowledge the housing problems that Brandeis students are facing in the present.
As Brandeis students, it is not uncommon to hear horror stories about on-campus housing. Some may remember the flood in East Quad last year or the electrical fires in Ziv Quad and Ridgewood Quad in December 2021 and May 2021 respectively. However, aside from these larger housing disasters, students also face health and safety hazards in their buildings on the daily.
This editorial board has been made aware of several concerning incidents in this year alone. One room in Rosenthal Quad was infested with wasps, forcing a student to live in temporary housing until the issue was resolved. Loose window screens cause bugs to crawl into bedrooms in the Charles River Apartments. A member of this editorial board found mold growing on the ceiling of their bathroom in Ziv Quad due to the lack of ventilation in the showers. There have also been reports of water damage on the ceilings of several dorms, including in Village, Charles River Apartments, and Ziv Quad.
Most recently, the residents of Ziv Quad have been dealing with a mouse problem. “We are being plagued by mice,” Micah Heilbron ’24 said in a WhatsApp direct message to the Justice on Oct. 21. “We have caught five mice and have seen several more. Facilities came twice and gave us glue traps, which are the least humane way to deal with the infestation.
“We now wake up to live mice congealed to glue traps and we have to bring them five floors down to the dumpster while they squeak and squeal. No one has filled the holes in our walls and vents that the mice are coming in from … Someone please help us or the mice will kill us, if not physically, then in spirit.”
As Micah makes clear, problems like mouse infestations cause extreme discomfort for students. More than this, they’re safety hazards which can cause serious health issues if not properly resolved. Students are stressed enough as it is, balancing heavy workloads, jobs, and extracurricular activities. We should not have to worry about whether we are breathing in mold or stepping in mouse droppings as well.
There is also the issue of heating and cooling on campus. Earlier this month, student dormitories were sweltering because the heat had been switched on despite it being 80 degrees outside. Now that it has gotten cooler, students in the Charles River Apartments are struggling to keep warm due to the poor insulation of their campus accommodations.
Students living off campus are facing health and safety hazards, too. Landlords are not always responsive when students express concerns about their living spaces, which forces students to live in unsafe environments.
One member of this editorial board has experienced negligence from their landlord, who has failed to complete several repairs. The front steps have been crumbling since June. The range hoods in the kitchen are not effective, which causes the room to fill with smoke.
Black goo seeps from the washer, which the students living there need to pay an additional fee to use. And when the heat in the house would not turn on, the students were forced to fork over $800 for oil because their landlord had failed to get it refilled.
This landlord is likely just one of many taking advantage of Brandeis students living off campus in the Waltham area. With few other housing options available on the market, students have little choice but to put up with safety hazards and put their own health at risk. After all, they need a place to sleep.
The problem here is clear: Both the University and off-campus landlords are failing to provide students with living accommodations that meet basic health and safety requirements — and they’re getting away with it because students have no other place to stay.
It is reprehensible that the University has the funds to throw a 75th anniversary celebration, but will not allocate money in the budget to do something as basic as making sure student dormitories are mold and mouse-free. And it is equally unjust that landlords are failing to complete necessary repairs, taking advantage of the fact that many students do not have the experience, time, or funds to take legal action when it is warranted.
Whether they live on campus or off, Brandeis students deserve to have safe, hazard free housing. Our living spaces should be places where we can sleep, work, and relax without worry. They should not be a source of stress on top of every other part of college life.