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Ceiling collapses in Slater Hall

The incident is unlikely to alter inspection practices in the future, due to the singularity of the event

A student was struck when a portion of the ceiling in her dorm room collapsed on her as she slept last week, but she was not seriously injured.

At 7:30 a.m. Friday, the ceiling facade of Slater Hall 403 fell onto Ramya Mahalingam ’14. The rubble, which was composed of plaster and sheetrock, fell from a downward-sloping segment of ceiling.

Mahalingam sustained a soft tissue bruise to her head above her right ear and three other minor bruises to her knee, leg and arm. She was struck by the falling debris while she slept and awoke with head pain and a ringing in her ear.

“I remember the sound, but I don’t remember what happened visually. I sat up, and I was surrounded by rubble, plaster and sheetrock,” Mahalingam said. “I was really confused.”

Mahalingam’s roommate, Bridget Nixon ’14, said she awoke to a deafening crash. She quickly called the Department of Facilities Management, which then alerted the Department of Public Safety. DPS officers arrived quickly, along with Facilities Management workers who immediately began to remove rubble from the room and collect dirty clothes to be dry-cleaned. Though most objects in the room were covered in dirt, nothing was permanently damaged, Mahalingam said.

DPS called Emergency Medical Services, which determined that Mahalingam’s injuries were not severe enough to warrant a trip to the hospital. Health Services later diagnosed her bruised head and ran cognitive function tests. Based on the results, it is unlikely she has a concussion, Mahalingam said.

Later that morning, the Office of Residential Life contacted Mahalingam to facilitate a room change: She and Nixon will reside in Young Orchard for the remainder of the semester.

Mahalingam said she was mostly satisfied with Facilities Management’s response. “Once they got there, they handled (the situation) relatively well,” she said.

But she said she was dismayed that she has not yet received help moving her things. “It’s emotionally very difficult for me to go back inside,” she said. “A lot of it is just shock: All of this is very disruptive to the things I would normally have been doing.”

Mahalingam said Psychological Services diagnosed her with an acute stress reaction, a condition that often arises after traumatic events.

Nixon said she would like to see more thorough room checks to prevent accidents like this in the future. “It’s pretty scary to have a whole section of your wall fall on your roommate,” she added.

Paul Armas, director of maintenance operations for Facilities Management, said Facilities Management has completed a full and thorough inspection of all Slater rooms since the incident, and that corrective maintenance of the damaged room is in progress. He said the collapse was most likely caused by separation of the plaster from the wall strips due to settling or cracking over time.

Armas said the incident is unlikely to alter inspection practices in the future. “This is not a common occurrence that would trigger us to do what is beyond the corrective actions that we’ve done at this point,” he said. Room inspections are conducted once a year during summer break, with preventive maintenance done periodically throughout the year, Armas added.

Mahalingam said she had reported a crack in the ceiling, along with other cracks in the room, on her room condition report at the beginning of the year. But she said she thought little of it afterward, given the propensity for such cracks in older dorms. Slater was built in 1879.

“This being an Ivy League university, and us paying so much to be in these dorms, it really doesn’t make sense for things like this to just happen,” Mahalingam said.

She declined to comment on whether she is planning to take legal action against the University.


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