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Minden Hall stands augustly at the corner of Brook and Waterman streets, stoically watching over the enormous potholes in the middle of that intersection. Its large rooms and relatively secluded location on the other side of Thayer Street, away from the hustle and bustle of the main campus, make it a highly desirable lottery pick for rising seniors and the lucky rising junior. If you can get over the awkward two-and-one configuration, the suites are great — residents have their own bathrooms that can remain vomit-free on weekends if they so choose, and there is even an elevator, a rare amenity for the typically "all stairs, all the time" campus of Brown. There is even a pair of three-single suites that can be snatched up without having to spend the apartment rate that accompanies similar arrangements in Young Orchard Apartments or Barbour Hall.

Yet there is no such thing as a free single. What appears on the outside as a dorm built like a fortress that has weathered the unthinkable and unimaginably awful weather of Providence is on the inside quickly falling apart. The Office of Residential Life would have us believe that the shiny new elevator that has only broken once this year — knock on wood — and the new carpets in public spaces indicate that Minden Hall has been "renovated" and is ready for another hundred years of service. But this is an obvious, if half-hearted, diversion from the truth.

I admit I only have my own personal experiences on which to base my judgment, but this past year alone has made me more pessimistic about the state of residential life than the past three years combined. Sure, my room in Littlefield Hall was next to the men's room and thus slightly smaller than the spacious corner rooms. And sure, the mold on the ceiling of my shower in Caswell was disgusting and made me feel like I was showering in Lilliput. But none of these minor complaints made me feel legitimately unsafe.

My suitemates and I have put in work requests for six different projects since we started living in Minden in September. We have had three windows replaced — the repeated interaction has us on a first-name basis with the window repairman — an entire wall gutted and replaced, our faucet "fixed" and another wall patched with studs and duct tape. We all had radiators that did not turn on for the first month or so of winter, and now we have three radiators that do not stop producing heat even when in the "off" position. This past week, when it was over 55 degrees in the middle of the day, my suitemate had to flee his sauna of a room because it was unhealthily warm.

These heaters have led indirectly to at least one of the issues with our windows — it was so hot in his room and so cold outside that condensation formed on the window and leaked through a bad seal into his wall, dissolving the eons-old insulation within. In my room, the wall that faces the harsh climate of the temperate zone is warped like a fun house mirror. The outlet on that wall tilts upward at a visible angle due to the extreme distortion. The warping is because the insulation in the walls, I was told by an unnamed member of the Department of Facilities Management staff, is so old that it is beginning to crumble into sand and pool at the bottom of the hollow wall. I witnessed this first-hand when a panel of my wall, under the window, warped so extremely that it detached, spilling insulation onto my floor. I can only wonder exactly how old the insulation in a building almost a century old is, and whether or not it complies with the most recent asbestos regulations.

Amidst all these troubles, and assurances that "the whole building is like this" from the same unnamed Facilities Management worker, the department seems unwilling to solve the overarching issue — Minden is falling down. When our suite's wall had to be replaced — air whistling through the crack would shift papers on my suitemate's desk — it took multiple work orders and a serious call from his parents to the school for anything to be done about it. It boggles the mind that student safety does not seem a University priority.

I have written before on the complex ways in which money is donated to and allocated by the University. Some funds are simply allocated for new projects and the University is powerless to override that earmark. But while fancy new buildings rise over our campus in record time, Minden Hall continues to slowly fall down around its residents' heads, endangering their health at every turn.

Mike Johnson ‘11 lives in fear that his doorjamb will finally completely detach from the wall.


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