Bringing Attention to the Burnham’s Showers

Will Kriss | JRN 3200

Students living in dorms on the campus of Western Michigan University have recently raised concerns of the living and sanitary conditions, specifically the dorms known as the Burnham’s.

During a Western Student Association Dinner on WMU’s campus on Wednesday, March 28th, a meeting was held for dinner with the administration, which transitioned into an open-forum format for students to raise questions and concerns. One student raised the concerns of moldy showers that have not been addressed.

“I live in the Burnham’s, and our bathrooms are really bad,” WSA Allocations Commission Chair Gyasi Gambrell said. “They’re very, to be quite frank, very dirty. Every time I go in the shower, there are bugs showering with me. There’s a lot of molding on the walls, and the infrastructure is super dilapidated. I just feel like us as students are paying so much money to live in these dorms. I feel like there should be some type of change with that.”

Students that are enrolled in 2017 or later are currently paying an estimated $21,849 for tuition with Room and Board, a total which can vary depending on books and personal needs.

Gambrell made sure to note that this is not the fault of campus custodians.

“I know it’s not a janitorial issue, because the janitors work very hard at what they do, and they’re very regular, so I know it’s not that,” Gambrell said. “There’s only so much a janitor can do, and I just think at this point, I’m not sure if someone needs to come in and knock these bathrooms out and redo them or something. It just looks too bad, but again, the infrastructure is peeling off the wall, there’s bugs everywhere, molding on different sides and corners of the shower, and I think it’s super gross.”

Currently, students who stay on campus pay an estimated $21,000 for tuition, including Room and Board.

Dr. Diane Anderson, Vice President of Student affairs, was not aware of the conditions in the Burnham’s, and assured the student body something would be done.
“I share your concerns. As you know, we’re working on the south neighborhood, and the Burnham’s is in the south neighborhood,” Anderson said. “Our first move is to take down Elmwood apartments, because they also are in need of being replaced, but we all need to look at the Burnham’s, Draper/Siedschlag, and French/Davis/Zimmerman. I hadn’t heard the specific complaints that you have raised about the Burnham’s. I’ll follow up with my staff about that, because certainly, if you’re saying there is mold, and bugs, we need to follow up on both of those things ASAP, because those are not things that should be occurring. Those are cleanliness issues. The bugs, we need to have pest control, but the mold, that is a cleanliness issue, so we need to take a serious look at that.”

The bugs in question have been identified as Drain Flies.

While drain flies are not generally known to be a health hazard, they are a source of  annoyance, and their perpetually wet habitation areas have them conditioned against drowning. Additionally, they are difficult to kill with cleaning agents such as bleach. A constant drain fly problem is usually an indicator that there is a nest somewhere in the plumbing, which can be much harder to get rid of.

In the weeks following the WSA meeting, attention has been brought to both the administration and to the Burnham’s staff, who have been quick to deal with the issues as well as they can.

“As soon as it hit my desk, we immediately took action on it. Immediately, we did do some reactive work,” Director of Facilities Management Services Brian Dubrish said in an interview. “We do have preventive maintenance schedules. One of them was missed, and we did have them come in immediately with one of our contractors that does integrative pest management. Every day, once a day, the bathrooms are deep cleaned, and once a day, they go in and check stock and make sure things are touched up.”

Once Dubrish became aware of the issues, he took immediate action to rectify the situation.
“We try to be as proactive as possible,” Dubrish said. “Some of the issues that I saw the pictures of from the individual that reported it to the administration, she shared those pictures with me. The ceiling tiles should have been replaced previously. We do have a monthly [Pest Management] where Rose Pest Solutions, a contracted [Internal Pest Management] company go through and do bioremediation on all the drains. I had them go through the day it was reported, even though it was done the month prior.”

For future plans, very thorough maintenance is planned for this Summer.

“This facility has been summer housing for the past seven to eight years, which means that it hasn’t been taken offline for maintenance,” Dubrish said. “This summer, it has been scheduled offline for full top-down maintenance, which also includes a small project that we initiated back in January with our projects and constructions team on campus, and we are looking to renovate the bathrooms this summer.”

With the knowledge of maintenance that needs to be addressed, it is clear that the administration is doing everything in their power to take care of student living conditions. In the meantime, students are always encouraged to reach out to proper organizations if they see any infrastructure issues.

“We have systems in place where students can talk to RA’s on their floors, they can report to Bronco Fix-It, they can can talk to hall staff before they reach out to administrative levels,” Dubrish said. “Ideally, on a day-to-day basis, at both the student and administrator level, I’m more than willing to step in at any point in time and take corrective action, and we have done that.”

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