Editorial: Miller and Houston renovations left students in unbearable conditions

Throughout the past year, Tufts has renovated many underclassmen dorms. Given these recent renovations, it is apt to surmise that Tufts values safe and comfortable student living spaces. Though these projects resulted in beautifully modern dorms, last year, students lived through the renovations of Miller and Houston Halls, sharing space with dust and noise, dehumanized and devalued by the university as it lay the foundations for this year’s class.

During the fall semester of 2018, half of Miller was occupied by students while the other half underwent construction. In the spring, half the residents of Houston moved to newly renovated Miller, while half remained during renovations in Houston. Tufts claimed that the “loudest construction will take place over winter break, spring break and summer session – as to minimize any disturbance to the students living in the West wing of Houston Hall during the spring semester” — this was woefully unsuccessful.

Living through the renovations “was one of the worst parts of [my first year,]” Aesha Desai, a sophomore who lived in Houston, told the Daily. According to former Houston residents, their basic needs were ignored, and their complaints went unanswered during construction. There was no filtered water in the building until the final weeks of the semester, forcing students to walk to other halls late at night for drinking water. Additionally, there was no functional kitchen in either Miller or Houston during renovations, leading students to travel in order to cook.

These inconveniences, however, were compounded by the unbearable noise of construction. Work was supposed to start at 9 a.m. and end at 5 p.m., residents were told, but in reality, construction would often begin as early as 7 a.m., pushing students to avoid spending time in their rooms. The noise caused headaches, prevented concentration and disturbed sleep.

The list of complaints do not end here. Both Houston and Miller lacked actual common rooms during construction, instead featuring spare dorm rooms stocked with a few old couches — a far cry from the new study areas available in the buildings. Residents reported a lack of attention to sidewalks around Houston during the winter months. They remained icy and dangerous to walk on in the winter, and the problem was never fully addressed.

The final blow was psychological. It was “truly terrible,” Desai told the Daily, “because we were living in an old dorm while looking across the quad and seeing students living in the beautiful Miller dorm … knowing we all were paying the same amount for these drastically different experiences.”

Tufts’ disregard for the basic needs and safety of its students during the renovations of Miller and Houston Halls should never be repeated. It is beyond callous to subject a crop of first-years to the noisy, chaotic and unsafe conditions of a construction site, however “completely separated” the university believes it to be. Noise carries. Water becomes foggy. Lack of study space unfairly inhibits a students’ first year of college study.

Tufts seems not to recognize the problem they created, but they must.

The Class of 2023 has settled in and inhabits many refurbished living spaces, replete with comfortable furniture, clean water and sparkling glass. Was it worth the dehumanization of the Class of 2022?

This cannot ever happen again.


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