When junior Jesse Fonkert moved into Academy House in August, he found a penis in his room. A giant inflatable penis, to be exact, along with a used condom, beer cans and a soda bottle filled with urine.
“I don’t even want to know what happened in there,” Fonkert said.
Although one might think this situation to be one in a million, he is not the only Augustana student met at the door of his or her theme house with a similar scene and a difficult relationship with residence life ahead of them.
Junior Laura Rasmussen, who lives in Odin House, experienced a related frustration with the move-in process. For three weeks after she brought her belongings to the house, Rasmussen said she slept in the hallway.
“You could just tell it smelled like smoke, and it had a pretty heavy smell,” Rasmussen said, even though she said residence life sent someone to shampoo the carpets before the year began.
Fonkert said as soon as he discovered the state of his room, he sent an “angry” email to director of residence life Corey Kopp. In the email, he addressed the mess, calling it “absolutely ridiculous,” and informed Kopp that he did not have a place to stay that night.
“I spend the last seven hours packing, moving and cleaning this house to find out that the house that I am supposed to be moving in is an absolutely [sic] pigsty,” Fonkert wrote.
In addition, Fonkert complained about the manner in which he was evacuated early from Heritage House, where he lived for the summer term. He asked for a refund for the four days he did not spend in Heritage, which he said he received.
According to Whitney Brown, the assistant director of residence life, the maintenance of Augustana’s 18 theme houses does not fall under the responsibility of the students living there. This includes things like mowing the grass and shoveling the walks.
“The only thing we have them do is change their own lightbulbs,” Brown said.
However, general upkeep of theme houses is a gray area that Rasmussen said she wishes was more definitive. According to Rasmussen, students do not sign any kind of contract agreeing to keep the house clean or fill out an inventory of damage already done when they arrive, a claim that Brown refutes.
“They do fill out an inventory,” Brown said. “It’s long, somewhere around five pages.”
Brown cites the formation of a new matinence system as a possible reason for the recent confusion. She said there used to be only one student in a house who dealt with residence life, called a liaison. However, this year residence life extended the ability to complete a work order to all students. Once a work order arrives in residence life, Brown said they assign a maintenance worker to fix the problem.
“Those are mostly for big appliances, like washing machines and stoves,” Brown said.
More students submitting orders produces an increased workload and a longer waiting period for problems to be fixed, Brown said. This means that the small problems students are expected to deal with, like cleaning up after themselves, escalate to an issue that maintenance needs to take care of, and results takes longer.
According to Fonkert, this in itself presents a problem that has no known solution.
“They really need to evaluate how they run things, or they at least need to expand the housing department,” Fonkert said.
For students living in theme houses who feel their complaints go unheard, Brown encourages them to continue communication with residence life through phone calls and emails. In addition, she said the facilities department generally knows the status of the maintenance on a house, and can inform inquiring students about it. She also added that students should remember that theme houses present 18 additional buildings for residence life to account for.
“Houses kind of tend to come with issues, whether it’s a school house that we bought or whether you buy it on your own,” Brown said.