OPINION: Pomona needs to maintain not only its gym, but also its dorms

In December, Pomona College announced it would spend $55 million to upgrade the Rains Center. The 30-year-old gym compares poorly to Claremont McKenna College’s three-year-old Roberts Pavilion in terms of adequate facilities for athletes and recreational use, and the need to renovate and remodel is understandable.

However, in the undertaking of this project, basic needs like student dorm upkeep should not be ignored.

Pomona’s Student Handbook states that students have “the right to a comfortable and well-maintained living environment that is reasonably safe and secure.” But that right isn’t always ensured.

The appliances in several of Pomona’s south campus dorms — Oldenborg Center, Wig Hall, Lyon Court, Harwood Court, Mudd-Blaisdell and Gibson Hall — are poorly maintained, contrary to the handbook’s suggestion.

Wig Hall, which houses more 100 students, has only four washing machines and four dryers, half of which did not function for a large part of last fall. Students learned this through multiple failed attempts at washing and drying, and spent a relatively large amount of money and time trying to do laundry.

“One night, I was up extremely late in spite of having class in the morning just doing laundry because the dryers don’t work, and even those that run don’t function properly,” Evelyn TeSelle PO ’22 said. “It’s not only a waste of money but also time because each dryer cycle is 45 minutes long.”

Students from Wig found themselves carrying sizable amounts of laundry to other dorms. Despite multiple people filling out work order forms and writing to the Office of Housing and Residence Life, the process of fixing the machines and providing relief to students was slow.

Working laundry machines is a problem across all of Pomona’s south campus dorms. The machines in Mudd are full of water stagnation and a stench that permeates the various levels of the residence hall. Dryers are loud, making it difficult for students situated around the laundry rooms to study and sleep.

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Printers, a basic need for college students who need physical copies of assignments and reading material, are on many occasions found disconnected or unable to take commands. The printer in Blaisdell often prints sheets single-sided, generating a large amount of waste and using much more paper than is sustainable.

Of all the first-year dorms, Wig is one of the oldest, and was last renovated in 1993. Because of this, students in Wig find themselves facing problems that extend beyond laundry and printing. While maintenance is an issue that can be circumvented, safety and security for students should not be compromised.

The kitchen facilities in Wig are outdated, and the stove and oven frequently don’t work. There was also an incident in the fall 2018 semester where the oven did not function in accordance with the dials and remained on overnight. The burning stove was found the following morning by a parent and turned off.

All Pomona dorms require swipe access to enter. But last semester, Wig’s main door did not properly lock, and the swipe system was temporarily rendered useless. The same problem plagued Wig at the beginning of this semester, but is now fixed.

The job of maintaining the multitudes of dorms is difficult, and blame should not be attributed to staff working in the facilities and res life departments.

Instead, a lack of funding is the culprit. With multiple emails and work order forms coming in every day, the repair of broken appliances and such is slow due to the magnitude of problems. If more money went to facilities, it’s likely there would be fewer issues to deal with each day.

In response to these concerns, Pomona housing director Frank Bedoya said that “students are at the forefront. As soon as news of a problem reaches us, we make an attempt to fix it as quickly as possible. Right now, I know that the laundry machines in Walker and Mudd-Blaisdell need repairing, and we are working on fixing them.”

When people make donations, they’re usually for something swanky like a new gym. No one thinks about the less extravagant issues that need to be addressed.

Ananya Saluja PO ’22 is from New Delhi, India. She considers herself lucky to be a resident of Wig Hall.

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