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Tuesday, May 21, 2024
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Construction workers use a forklift outside of Phillips Residence Hall on March 13, 2024.

Phillips Hall renovation causes disruptions for residents

Phillips Hall residents report major construction disruptions, including noise and poor air quality.

Phillips Hall residents said recent renovations, which began over winter break and will continue through the academic year, have caused disruptions to their physical and mental health.

The residence hall is currently undergoing renovations to improve its common spaces and resident rooms on the first and second floors. Since construction began in January, several residents said construction is more disruptive than communicated by University Housing.

Workers are not supposed to use noise-intensive machinery before 9:00 a.m., and barriers are supposed to be put in place to prevent air transferring between construction and resident spaces, according to University Housing.

Phillips Hall residents said these guidelines are not being followed. Residents said they’ve reported a variety of issues, including poor air quality and loud noise at early hours. 

Despite Phillips being set to house no residents over break, Arcadia, a Phillips Hall resident whose pronouns are it/its, was moved back into the dorms on Jan. 16, nine days before the academic semester began.

In an email to Phillips residents on Dec. 12, UW Housing stated that during winter break vents in dorm rooms might be opened and “contractors escorted by Housing staff may enter rooms to check access panels and bathroom plumbing.”

Loud construction started as early as 6 a.m., Arcadia said. When Arcadia called University Housing to try and report construction disruptions, it said University Housing hung up because the noise was too loud.

“I would try to make calls to housing and what not, like ‘hey, what the f–k is going on?’” Arcadia said.

When Arcadia voiced concerns about loud construction starting as early as 6:00 a.m., it said University Housing talked to the city about contractors breaking the city ordinance to start construction at 7:00 a.m.

The city deflected to the university before University Housing said it was a contractor issue.

Resident Charlie Huebner also complained about early morning noise. She compared it to “one of those massage [guns] with the ball on the end pounding into the ceiling.” 

University Housing spokesperson Brendon Dybdahl told The Daily Cardinal that residents should “speak to any of the Housing staff in their building, including their House Fellow or any Residence Life or Facilities team members,” to report any concerns related to the construction. Residents can also go to their housing desk, contact their residence life office, scan the QR code on their door or contact housing’s facilities or desk services, Dybdahl added. 

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Still, some students said they feel these options are inadequate, and others said they were unaware of the proper channels for voicing their concerns.  

“[Our housefellow] can only really communicate when they’re in a board meeting,” Heubner said. “It's like a four-step program to get there in the first place.”

Renovations affecting health, residents say

After returning to Phillips Hall on Jan. 19,  Arcadia said it walked into its dorm to find the fridge and microwave moved, as well as a vent open with exposed fiberglass. Arcadia said the vent connected to the second floor, which is currently under heavy construction.

“I wasn’t informed of this at all. It sent me into a paranoid spiral — someone was in my room, why the fuck was there someone in my room?” Arcadia said.

The construction crew later sent an email asking if they could put the vent cover back on, Arcadia said. However, Dybdall said staff knocked on the door, and entered when they heard no response. After finding the resident inside, they apologized and followed up to schedule a better time for this work. 

Another Phillips Hall resident, said her bathroom water was turned off from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. with only 24 hours notice from a slip of paper taped to her door. 

According to Dybdall, the resident was notified four days prior to the water being turned off via email. However, Dybdall stipulated that the contents of the email, specifically the greeting line “accidentally omitted” the room number of the affected student, which “seemed to cause the confusion.”

Other residents said they’ve had difficulty breathing since renovations began. Phillips Hall resident Thomas Parker, an avid biker, said he has experienced chest pain since construction started. 

“It’s been a month and a half since I started biking again. I’ve noticed some weird extra lung thing when I bike [uphill],” Parker said. “Especially with the fumes and stuff on the basement and first floor, I feel like it’s almost impossible to keep air quality good.”

Additionally, with crews starting work in the early morning, residents said they’ve had trouble sleeping.  

“I’m a heavy sleeper, and construction noises have woken me up,” Huebner said.

Residents received a $250 refund on their spring semester housing bill, still making Phillip’s cheapest room the 44th most expensive on campus.

Largest common space in the hall to close

Residents said the Phillips Hall basement, the building’s largest common area, will be closed due to renovations from March 11 to April 1, according to an email sent to them. The first and second floor common areas are also closed. 

Even before the basement closed, Huebner said dust covered most of the surfaces where residents eat, and debris was everywhere. Drywall, rebar and even bits of copper piping scattered the area. 

Phillips is home to the Open House Community for LGBTQ+ students on the third floor. Due to the closures, residents said they’ve used the third- and fourth-floor common areas. The Open House learning community now shares more of their space on the third floor.

Additionally, the residence hall is located on the outer edges of campus. The nearest library, Steenbock, is an 8-minute walk and isn’t open 24 hours like other campus libraries. Residents said they have to walk half a mile to study somewhere free from loud power tools and poor air quality, 

University Housing communicated that only quiet work will be permitted during finals week. But several residents said they are worried this will not be the case.

“Because of all the broken promises and inconsistencies… we're concerned that the contractors will just continue doing loud work, especially during finals. We have no avenue to communicate with housing,” Parker said.

Editors note: Incorrect links were updated at 5:30 p.m. on March 14, 2024, and information was added to provide more context on UW Housing’s communication to residents of Phillips Hall. 

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Mary Bosch

Mary Bosch is the Photo Editor for The Daily Cardinal and a first year Journalism student. She has also written campus, state and city news. Follow her on twitter: @Mary_Bosch6

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