Todd Avery / Senior Lantern reporter
The 1,200 residents of the renovated Park-Stradley residence hall were still homeless Monday evening after a water main break forced evacuation, and university officials have no timeline for when they’ll be able to return.
About 2,000 students from Baker East, Baker West and Park-Stradley were evacuated Sunday evening, and the Ohio Union was shut down. The Union reopened and students from the Baker Halls were permitted to return to their residence halls at about 7 a.m. Monday, but Park-Stradley residents were not so lucky.
While the evacuation was an inconvenience for many students, some said they were appreciative of the university support.
“They were ridiculously conscientious,” said Brenna Gile, a Baker Hall West resident and a second-year in Japanese.
“They had basketball courts and volleyball courts, and basically if you wanted to do anything RPAC-y, they had the RPAC open all night for use,” said Riley Debacker, a first-year in linguistics and theater.
“They provided us with food and drink(s), they gave us blankets and pillows because some of us didn’t have them, they were extremely good about it,” Gile said.
“We clearly look like refugees,” Gile said. “And we got directed to this hallway and we were home again, for a brief time at least, surrounded by comrades.”
Gile said with board games and a jovial atmosphere, the RPAC made the best of a bad situation.
Dave Isaacs, communications and media relations manager of Student Life, said “we simply have no idea at this point” when students will be able to return to their dorms.
“The electrical system got wet (in Park-Stradley), it was submerged in water,” Isaacs said.
According to OSU spokesman Jim Lynch, OSU Police do “not have a criminal investigation report on this water line failure.”
Park-Stradley opened Fall Semester after being closed as part of a $171 million South Campus renovation project. The building has been occupied for about a month.
“The building’s brand new. It’s really sad that that happened,” OSU President E. Gordon Gee told The Lantern. “The kids were great.”
Lynch said between 150 and 200 students slept at the RPAC Sunday night.
The remainder of the 2,000 evacuees went to stay with friends or family.
Kevin Scott, a first-year in film studies and Baker Hall West resident, spent the night in The Lounge in the RPAC basement, draped across two armchairs under a security light.
“They took care of us, they obviously knew what they were doing, but I would rather have my bed,” Scott said. “Sleeping under a light is not fun.”
Although Baker Hall residents could return to their dorms Monday morning, hot water was not restored until 8:10 a.m., according to the Office of Administration and Planning emergency management website.
Joseph Alutto, OSU executive vice president and provost, said in a email to faculty sent Monday morning that the 1,200 students living in Park-Stradley were allowed back into the building Monday until 7 p.m. to retrieve personal items. The email said students were urged to bring enough clothes for at least two days.
Students living in Park-Stradley could retrieve personal items from their rooms from 7 a.m. until 7 p.m. Monday, but the dorm remained closed.
“I was going to sleep in the RPAC, but the accommodations weren’t too great, sleeping on the floor,” said Ronnie Fox, a first-year in biology who lives in Park-Stradley.
Fox stayed the night on a sofa in a friend’s apartment.
“Hopefully he can let me stay over there again. I live two hours away, so I don’t really have any other options.”
Park-Stradley residents in need of housing can sign up at the Park-Stradley front desk.
“To date, 40 students have requested alternative housing accommodations,” Lynch said in a Monday email.
Isaacs said anyone who has made a housing request through the Office of Student Life will be accommodated.
“Everybody’s being taken care of,” he said.
Isaacs said students will be placed in “various university residence locations … based on availability.”
However, on Aug. 20, The Lantern reported that university residence hall slots were filled and some freshmen had to find their own places to live off campus.
Kandis Sargeant, a first-year in health sciences and Park-Stradley resident, spent the night on the floor of a friend’s dorm room in Morrison Tower.
“It was fine for a night. Not ideal during midterms week,” Sargeant said. “They said it’s at least two days that we’re out. At least.”
Alutto urged faculty to be understanding toward students affected by the water main break displacement.
“In light of this emergency, please show flexibility in assignments as students affected seek to access notes, books, etc., and otherwise adjust to this disruption,” he said in an email.
Alutto said he will update faculty as more information is available.