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Weingarten: An opinion on ISU housing

The housing is too hot to handle.
An+empty+dorm+room+on+the+eighth+floor+of+Wallace+Hall.
Brandi Boyett/Iowa State Daily
An empty dorm room on the eighth floor of Wallace Hall.

As another move-in period at ISU wraps up, I want to discuss my observations from the first few days of classes. Whether you are new to ISU or a veteran, I noticed a running theme while talking to students and overhearing conversations on campus: it is far too hot for comfort. 

Considering that Iowa is in a heat wave, which has the possibility of breaking records today in Des Moines, ISU would surely be doing everything necessary to ensure students are comfortable in their student housing, right?

You would be wrong if you were under this assumption, as I was. (I am only describing these circumstances based on my experience; however, I have good reason to believe it is similar elsewhere). 

The other evening, as I met with a friend at Towers (Wallace and Wilson), I noticed that people were sleeping in the dens and the other public spaces available to students rather than in their bedrooms. Why? Because the rooms (at least in the Towers) do not have air conditioning.

When I inquired about this, the RAs (Resident Assistants) claimed that leadership would not allow students to have air conditioning due to the potential of building “blackouts.”

This created a disturbance among the parents and students who arrived and discovered no air conditioning in their rooms. Normally, this would be fine, however, students are not allowed to purchase air conditioners because students are not allowed to have anything in the windows, according to RAs. 

This appears reasonable on the surface. What else is the university supposed to do if the building will blackout, and it is a policy violation? 

However, if we take a broader view of the university’s projects, we may see that more can be done. 

One of these projects is the development of CYTown, a new stretch of suites and retail stores that will cover the gap between Hilton Coliseum and Jack Trice Stadium. According to KCCI, the 200 million dollar project will be financed with “land monetization opportunities with the balance coming from leasing of 20 CYTown suites and fundraising” and “university and athletic funds, which will be repaid, over time, by project revenues.” In other words, the project will be funded by the money that CYTown generates once it is established. 

In addition, the article states that “parking lot improvements were necessary, regardless of the CYTown development, for the safety of visitors, faculty, staff and students who park there on a daily basis.”

Reading that last quote over again, one can’t help but notice the insistence on “necessary.” Is it not “necessary” for students to be comfortable, not to mention safe in their dorms? The dorms we pay for?

I’m sure some of the “necessary” CYTown development money could be used to bolster the student housing infrastructure. There is no reason why students should be expected to stay in the common areas of their buildings when they have a room they pay for simply because the school chooses not to invest in something like air conditioning. 

Jamie Pollard, the Iowa State athletic director, says in the KCCI article that it was the university’s goal “to develop something unique to Ames while helping our community support, attract, and retain students, businesses, visitors and new residents.” 

Focusing on the students’ housing seems like a good idea if you hope to “attract, and retain students.” From my brief interactions with others dealing with similar situations, it feels backhanded when the school claims to care for your safety and experience when these living conditions go unaddressed. 

But, at least we will have the opportunity to spend a lot of money and drive through the hideous traffic that will transpire as a result of the CYTown project, and then go home to a room that is hardly livable in such drastic weather conditions.

View Comments (9)
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Comments (9)

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  • E

    Eric | Aug 24, 2023 at 9:44 pm

    Lived in Towers and chose to live in them a 2nd year as well. My dad lived in them too. The towers haven’t changed nearly as much as the expectations of the people living in them. Wait until you sleep with the windows open in the winter because the boilers are too hot! I guess a person gets what they pay for. When my son goes, we will discuss the housing options and decide if the A/C upgrade is worth the cost difference of picking another dormitory

    Reply
  • P

    Parent 1 | Aug 24, 2023 at 2:49 pm

    Geothermal
    Is it feasible to retrofit the buildings with clean and renewable geothermal for cooling and heating?
    If you lookup Brooklyn high rise goes geothermal you can find an article about it. The system here won’t let me post the link to the article.

    Reply
    • C

      Caleb Weingarten | Aug 24, 2023 at 3:48 pm

      I haven’t heard of that, thank you for sharing! I will look into it.

      Reply
  • J

    J | Aug 24, 2023 at 1:22 pm

    On top of this, the “necessary parking lot improvements” aren’t very good either. In some of the new lots the asphalt is uneven and already riddled with the starts of pot holes, tire tracks, and is generally horribly done. Specifically lot C4.

    Reply
    • C

      Caleb Weingarten | Aug 24, 2023 at 3:49 pm

      I was thinking the same thing. So much for our money well spent!

      Reply
  • N

    Nathan | Aug 24, 2023 at 8:12 am

    As an RA on campus I 100% agree. It is very unfortunate that the ISU I once knew when the students were the most important soon turned over the the big 12 spotlight simply for more revenue and room for more tailgating.

    Reply
    • C

      Caleb Weingarten | Aug 24, 2023 at 12:07 pm

      Spot on. Thank you for commenting and being a voice for the students!

      Reply
  • M

    Matt | Aug 24, 2023 at 12:02 am

    UNI don’t have air either. I heard UNI decided to do improvements to the UNI Dome instead. Not sure if thats correct.? My daughter and students are struggling for sure.

    Reply
    • C

      Caleb Weingarten | Aug 24, 2023 at 12:09 pm

      I don’t know anything about the UNI situation, but it wouldn’t surprise me! It seems to be a trend among the universities.

      Reply