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Sewage hall

| Monday, April 23, 2018

I still remember where I was, anxiously awaiting to see which of the 29 dorms I’d been chosen to live in, a dorm that would begin to define me in just a few short months. Being new to Notre Dame, I had saved one of the free campus maps in my bedroom for this exact moment — I couldn’t wait to locate my new dorm, which would end up being Stanford Hall, on the map.

Fast forward to over three years later at the conclusion of another great Stanford Sunday Mass, this time a number of high school students on the Reilly visiting program were joining us. As I walked out of the chapel with my fellow Griffins and Reilly visitors, that unmistakable, putrid plume smacked us all right away. The terrible reek of sewage flooding out of the first floor bathrooms had bubbled up again during Mass, and our guests couldn’t help but notice something strange. Our expressions made it clear that this is common. It happens all the time.

I’m a pretty low-maintenance person, and the general shortcomings of the Stanford community’s building have not bothered me much. Even the extreme hot and humid weather conditions during my first few weeks of living in the dorm failed to damper my excitement for starting college — in fact, a great camaraderie developed as a result of my particularly steamy Frosh-O. (“Welcome Weekend” didn’t exist yet.) I believe this intangible dorm community has been the main cause of so much of my incredibly positive Notre Dame experience. I wouldn’t trade my Stanford friends for anything, and I love the dorm life, but not so much the building.

This laugh-it-off attitude persisted until 445 Stanford Hall had a cockroach invasion during my junior year. I returned to my room one Friday evening to see the roaches jumping out of my sink’s drain, one-by-one. After smashing a few still in the sink bowl, I turned on the hot water and had a friend monitor the situation while I searched for my rector. He provided me with drain cleaner to temporarily solve the problem until exterminators could arrive, a service he immediately requested.

However, the exterminators never came. I kept my drain pop-up closed over the weekend and all day Monday, but cockroaches are stronger than I expected — apparently they can lift a drain popup.

I woke up at 3 a.m. to a cockroach literally crawling up my arm. In my lofted bed.

I was upset. And I voiced this frustration to my hall staff — not in a mean or aggressive way, but in a way that communicated my conviction that this was an unreasonable standard of living. The next morning, an exterminator arrived and I never had a cockroach problem again.This experience taught me a lesson: when the dorm system is run by a large, confusing bureaucracy, sometimes I need to ask a few times to get the right person’s attention.

After all, what office decides how quickly exterminators arrive when cockroaches are waking dorm residents up at night? Is it Student Life? Or maybe Facilities Design and Operations? Or do the Office of Housing or the Office of Residential Life fit into all of this somehow?

This brings me to the reason a senior engineering major is currently writing this letter — I don’t have an answer. I can’t figure it out. But I do have the following to say, to whomever might be in a position to act.

Can someone please do something about the raw sewage that regularly floods Stanford Hall? It happens almost weekly now, and I feel like it’s a reasonable request. The plumbers always remark on the same issue (the piping running from Stanford Hall to the sewer needs replaced), so a practical solution is known and feasible.

But the problem continues. We still have floods all the time — not floods of water, but floods of sewage. This raw sewage flows up from the bathroom drains, floods outside the bathroom and soaks into the carpet of the hallway. Meanwhile, the Stanford residents inside their rooms pray the “waters” don’t breach their doors.

I’d really appreciate not having to brace myself every morning for the raw sewage smell that hits me when I open my door. Also, I think the first floor residents would appreciate an alleviation of their fear that sewage could flood their rooms at any time.

Can someone please help? Or at least give us something to tell the Reilly visitors when they ask, “Can Notre Dame really not fix the sewage flooding into your hallways?”

Bradley Berning


April 18

The views expressed in this Letter to the Editor are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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