The Blue & Gray Press

The University of Mary Washington Student Newspaper

Broken heat leaves Russell residents in the cold

3 min read

Russell Hall's heat system has been broken since Friday, Jan. 29, leaving Russell residents to either take a space heater or relocate to a different room or residence hall. |


Staff Writer

On Friday, Jan. 29, the day before students began moving to campus for the spring 2021 semester, Russell Hall residents received an email saying the building’s heat was broken. The email came from Megan Brown, area coordinator for residence life and housing. 

UMW ResidenceLife cannot resolve the issue while students are still living in the dorm building.

“On Friday, we discovered that the heating system for eighteen Russell rooms was not functional. In investigating it, we found that parts of the building’s heating system require extensive infrastructure work that would take place this summer once all residents have moved out,” said Hunter Rauscher associate director of housing and operations, in an email sent on Jan. 31.

Matthew Kanter, freshman and first-floor Russell resident, received Brown’s email around 12 p.m.

“[The email said] that we could either get a space heater or move to a different room on campus. My roommate and I ended up separating, with my roommate going to Willard with no roommate and myself going to the third floor of Russell with no roommate also,” he said.

Students were first given space heaters, then received Rauscher’s email detailing their options. 

“You [can] keep your room in Russell Hall for the spring 2021, understanding that the heat source will be the radiant electric space heater…At any point in the semester, you may contact us to relocate to another space on campus.” Or, the email said, “You [can] relocate to the other campus residential space identified for you. If you have a roommate and want to move together, we will find you a double together.” 

Students had to choose by 5 p.m. on Feb. 2 and were told that they may request assistance with moving their belongings Feb. 6 and 7.

However, moving was still a hassle for the residents. 

“This was found out only a day before move-in and I was scrambling Friday afternoon to figure all of it out with my roommate and ResLife while also making sure my car was prepared for the drive, and packing as well. Other than that, for me the transition to the third floor was super smooth, but very taxing in terms of moving everything,” said Kanter. “I have no complaints about UMW on my part of the story. I think they handled it pretty smoothly. In general I think that decision was made in the spur of the moment and there wasn’t much thought put into it before they did it because they probably thought it was the only option available.” 

Most of the residents in the affected rooms were moved.

“All of the first floor except one person had to move out,” said Kanter. “Some people on the fourth floor and I assume the third floor had to move out as well.”

Austin Heath, another freshman and Russell resident, was forced to move his first night on campus.

“I arrived to campus Saturday and moved back into my room. Later that night around 9 to 9:30 we received an email saying that we were going to be forcibly moved that night, as they did not want to allow any student to stay overnight in a room that had no heat,” he said. “So I moved from Russell Hall to Willard Hall between 10 p.m. and 1 a.m.” 

Then Rauscher’s email came Sunday Jan. 31.

Heath was fully moved into his new dorm before receiving the option to return to Russell.

“For those of us who are already completely moved, this was frustrating as we might not have had to move in the first place,” he said.

Heath also felt that the plan was very last-minute. 

“I feel the University could do better on preparation and emergency plans for cases like this or be more thorough in maintenance and supervision of the buildings so an incident like this can be prevented, because they will find out well beforehand and be able to fix it, whereas finding out the issue a day before move-in doesn’t give very much time at all to come up with a plan,” said Heath.

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