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Blansett: Student experience in Iowa State DOR

Guest+columnist+Tia+Blansett+shares+her+thoughts+and+experience+with+ISUs+Department+of+Residence
Guest columnist Tia Blansett shares her thoughts and experience with ISU’s Department of Residence

After reading the article “Weingarten: Why care about anything?”, I was inspired to disrupt the silence and bring to light one buried skeleton I have found here at ISU. After working in many organizations across the country and internationally, I know there is always the internally known graveyard of bad history in every organization on the planet (families have them, too). Most organizations have several items in this graveyard, from failed departments to bad managers who chase everyone away to the locations everyone leaves and they cannot hire fast enough to replace the loss. Since I have only found one body in the graveyard at ISU, I find this impressive, given the size of this university.

The Department of Residence (DOR) manages the university-owned housing on campus. The student body does not have many good things to say about the DOR, and I am unable to recommend new students to live in the on-campus apartments. I just moved out of an apartment in Frederiksen Court (Freddy) building 62. I moved in before the fall semester started in August. I picked Freddy because it is a walkable distance from the main academic buildings and has regular bus service with the Cardinal route. Based on the online information available, including the DOR policies on health, wellness and safety, as well as what you see upon first going into a Freddy apartment, it is the perfect college apartment. The large washer allows washing of large blankets, the furniture provides plenty of storage space and the flat rate utilities are a major bonus. It is also the only location on campus that does not make you pay extra for laundry. Other Big 12 schools, such as Texas Tech, Kansas State and Oklahoma State do not charge students extra to do laundry. This seemed like the perfect place to call home for the next three semesters while finishing my two graduate degrees. I am not a fan of roommates but could deal with one, assuming this person understood the basics of cleaning up after herself in the common areas. I spent my last year of undergrad living in one of these types of on-campus apartments that had four rooms and two bathrooms with four people living there. I never had any problems with the three roommates or the building. Fast forward a decade, and I have had several problems in just one semester in Freddy.

First, I had a roommate problem that led to hundreds of gnat flies in the apartment. This problem was due to a lack of cleaning of almost anything other than the personal room. Regular usage of the kitchen provided a full trash can of food along with food debris on the stove, counter, floor and in the sink. I just have to assume that home and dorm life has left this girl with the understanding of cleaning her own room and a maid will clean everything else. The nice exterminator Doug Dellachiesa came and resolved the fly problem within a few days. While he was resolving the fly problem, he tested for the larger problem that drove me to move off campus: roaches.

I discovered roaches are a known problem in the on-campus apartments. A resident of this building last year told me that he had roaches last year and had put in a work order. Following up on that discussion is when I discovered the roaches have been known in this building for the past two school years without any final resolution. I have also been told the other apartment complex, Schilletter University Village (SUV), is known to have roaches frequently.

Doug has been in my former apartment to spray three times a week for three straight weeks before Thanksgiving. He has also been out twice a week for many weeks, both before and after Thanksgiving. For those who have had to pay for exterminators, as I have, it is usually around $100 per visit, so this is a very expensive problem. Doug is fighting a losing battle with the policies and practices of the DOR that prevent him from treating the entire building at once. DOR could have closed the building over one of the past two summers to allow him to do his job right the first time, as there was a list of closed Freddy buildings posted for this past summer, but building 62 was not listed. Students were allowed to live here plus move in and out, potentially moving the roaches to their new residence. Each time he sprays there are more roaches that appear within a few days. Doug exemplifies the dedication that I expect from a member of the Cyclone community. He is consistently working for the betterment of the community despite the policies that prohibit him from doing his job. A fun fact about dedicated Doug is he is the former mayor of Lehigh, Iowa. I would like to know how many can compare their dedication to getting the job done to having to come out this many times all under the same work order number. Most people would either close the work order and require a new one to be put in each time for the ticket numbers to reflect the actual amount of work being required or just say, “Live with it. There is nothing that can be done.” The latter response is what the student body understands DOR policy to be. Just live with whatever conditions we give you, and if you don’t like it, then move at your own expense and don’t forget to pay up.

A graduate student living in SUV has told me there is a structural issue with her apartment that you wouldn’t expect even a shed or garage to have. She has asked DOR to fix this issue and was told they cannot fix the problem. Since she has requested DOR to fix the issue already, I will not list the specific problem here. But if you think of the building expectations for a basic storage shed, her apartment does not meet those basic standards.

Now, the roach and fly problems were not caused by the DOR; they were caused by students. We could go down the path of responsible living practices, including cleaning, but that is for another day. The fly problem was caused by my former roommate, and Doug was able to get rid of them completely within a few weeks. The roach problem was known for the last two years, and DOR did not allow Doug to properly treat the entire building at once, as is the usual case for an apartment complex in my experience. Should DOR have given notice of entry and allowed Doug access to the entirety of building 62 for proper treatment, Doug would have been able to do his job properly; then, I and the other residents that moved in would not be required to live with roaches.

I also heard students talking about mice in the residence halls north of Hilton Coliseum. Mice need an entry point to get into the structure since they are not magicians. Walking past these buildings, one can observe exterior doors open to various degrees, which would allow critters to come into the cool or warmth of the building from the hot or cold outside air. This is another student-caused problem.

When you move into a new apartment, you expect the place to be clean and up to health, safety and wellness standards and regulations. Pests are addressed under sanitary condition according to Housing and Urban Development (HUD) housing quality standards, as well as in the NSPIRE standards. You do not expect to be walking into an infestation of roaches or other bugs without your knowledge. You also do not expect to live in a place that has structural problems, which are also listed in the HUD standards under structure and materials. I was not informed there were roaches in the building until Doug was present while treating the fly problem. I have heard overwhelmingly from the student body that DOR does not enforce its own policies that are aligned with health and welfare. The consensus is that the only policy they enforce is that you pay up or stop attending the university if you want to move away from the issues.

I have moved off campus at a great cost. The published contract assumption process is also not supported by DOR. Their site specifically states they will post any assumption forms sent to their office, and I emailed one in November. I also went to their office in early December to be told the assumption would be posted by the end of day, and it never was. I spent over $250 on new plastic gasket boxes with a foam seal to ensure if anything hitches a ride, it will not escape the transport box and instead die over the break in storage. I also had to pay the contract termination fee of 50% of the contract remainder, which was over $1,500, per the DOR policies. This fee could have been avoided if the assumption was posted as available for someone else who wanted to live in Freddy to assume. It costs almost $2,000 to move to a place that is not infested with roaches because my own and other students’ health and welfare are not a priority to the DOR. Collecting our money is.

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  • S

    Steve | Feb 1, 2024 at 5:53 am

    You should have been around back in the 80’s for Pammel Ct., Quonset huts made into apartments. It was an international community with a central small grocery and laundry. Similarly we had roach problems off & on, they would come spray our side of the building but not the other if someone were living there. At that time the university had people to sparay there were no out of pocket costs for the exterminator.

    Reply
    • T

      Tia Blansett | Feb 1, 2024 at 11:06 am

      Doug works for DOR so I didn’t have to pay. But from your story it seems they still have the same idea to not deal with the whole problem and just parts.

      Reply
  • K

    Kay Brumley | Jan 31, 2024 at 10:20 am

    Tia is absolutely correct.

    Reply