A student petition to address the living environment in Merlini Hall gathered 122 signatures in five hours last week.
The petition, created by sophomore Thor Balavage and other members of the Residence Hall Association and resident assistants, was meant to start a conversation around the smell in Merlini and the possibility of closing and replacing the hall.
Scott Mudloff, director of residence life, said that closing the hall is not a viable option, but that the petition has spurred conversation on the issue.
“The numbers aren’t on our side if we close the building. We don’t have enough beds for the students we have to relocate,” he said. “But there are conversations happening all the way from me to the president and the board of trustees. Everybody is talking about it.”
The issue was also raised during Tuesday’s Student Government Association meeting. Senior RA Gabriella Rizza represented students in support of the petition. Athletic Director Vic Trilli, Director of Facilities Bruce Sanderson, Vice President of Finance and Administration Jennifer Gantz, Dean of Students Levi Esses and Mudloff all spoke regarding the issue, too.
“It seemed like the goal was to raise awareness and get the students’ voices heard as to what was going on,” Mudloff said. “Everybody took notice.”
Balavage said student’s main concern is for their health and safety.
“The smell, whatever it is, is something. I can’t guarantee that it’s not healthy, but at the same time it has to be something. That alone is enough to
get people out of there,” he said.
However, Sanderson addressed these concerns during the SGA meeting, saying that Merlini is not a closed environment and therefore has no health concerns.
“We can ventilate, with windows and doors and stuff like that,” Mudloff said.
Regardless, the issues with Merlini have been ongoing, Mudloff said. Students have been complaining about the pungent smell since the start of the semester.
“It’s very unpleasant,” senior Merlini resident Kyle Ryan said.
They have brought in three or four different companies, Mudloff said, to figure out what has caused the smell in the hall and where it is coming from.
“We had a camera sent down the vent pipes to see if we could identify cracks or pinholes or a joint that’s not lined up just right where the smell could be leaking out of,” he said.
If tests don’t provide an answer soon, Mudloff said they will begin working on moving students living on the second floor of Merlini to a hall on the opposite side of the building or to the third floor of Carrocci Hall.
There are currently 46 students living in Merlini, Mudloff said. Since the start of the year, there have been 21 students relocated to new rooms within the building or to Carrocci Hall.
Ryan, who is in his second year living in Merlini, said he feels stuck.
“It’s like I’m paying for something that I don’t even want to use, but I have to pay for it,” he said. “I try to stay out of there are much as possible. I’ll go hang out in Eck or come to the library or go to the training room. I just try to limit my time in there as much as possible.”
Balavage said he understands the logistical problems behind closing the hall, but wants there to be a long-term conversation on the table.
“As a member of RHA, our job is to make housing and student life on campus better,” he said. “We at least wanted to get it on the radar and blow it up for more people on campus to get them to start thinking about it.”
The conversation about long-term options will continue, Mudloff said. Immediate action, he said, will depend on the results of the pipe tests which should be in by the end of the week.
This story first appeared in the October 5, 2017 issue of The Vantage.