Last semester, several complaints concerning the student on-campus housing made their way to “AUB Teachers/Courses Guru” on Facebook, highlighting the need for drastic changes in the archaic buildings.
From the abrupt renovations of Penrose, to the contaminated tap water in Kerr, students seem to be fed up with life in dorms.
A popular post by former USFC member Hussein Khachfe, asking residents to share their concerns in an effort to investigate where changes need to be made, brought student frustration to light.
Around 50 comments were left on the post, which ranged from minor complaints, to a statement that reads “Bring the whole thing down”.
The most recurring problems, however, were regarding the laundry system, absence of first aid kits, slow internet connection, empty vending machines, and the bad infrastructure of the buildings.
A member of the Dorms Club replied to Khachfe’s post, stating that these problems were to be addressed by the club, through a subcommittee with a member from each dorm. While a meeting with the USFC did take place, change is happening slowly and insufficiently for students.
When asked about the recurring problems with the on-campus housing, Student Housing Coordinator, Nisrine Abou Fakhr, referred Outlook’s questions to Dean of Student Affairs, Talal Nizameddin.
According to Nizameddin, the decision to renovate Penrose, which was built in 1961, dates back to 2012, three years before it was announced. The building was chosen after an evaluation was conducted on all the residence buildings on campus, where it was decided that Penrose was in the most urgent need of change.
“Penrose was by far the most problematic in terms of structure, safety, design and even hygiene because of the location of the toilets,” he said.
“Its open access design also meant residents felt least protected and the risk of basic aspects like theft was highest.
Also the size of the rooms for two male students and the way it was laid out meant it became very cramped especially as the very small windows further affected ventilations. Ultimately it was issues with the building itself that made it most urgent especially as it is one of the largest buildings that affected a large number of students each year,” he added.
Reebal El-Masri, a former Penrose dorm resident, spoke of his experience living in dorms: “The conditions were fine by me. It was regularly cleaned – the closest thing you can get to AUB – and the fastest internet, so I think it was very good. Then [AUB administration] closed it, and kind of forced anyone who isn’t a first-year [student] or doesn’t have a scholarship out.”
Another Penrose resident of three years, Mohamad Chehade, said, “It was a surprise, an email came out of nowhere during summer semester and due to exams and everything, it was hard to find a place [quickly].”
Residents also noted the stark difference in the quality between the five buildings that are designated for women. Students residing in New Women’s Dorms (built in 1997) were rather satisfied with the housing, while students residing in Murex and Jewett (both built in 1958) had a lot to complain about.
According to a statement by Tracy Nassif, a recent resident of New Women’s Dorms, “It’s a pretty peaceful environment with respected privacy and safety. It’s well equipped apart from the insufficient electricity plugs in the rooms.
The lounge is great and the fact that we can receive guests is also a plus. The area is very clean. Once again the staff is kind, but can be a bit unprofessional at times.”
Nathalie Younes who has resided in Murex since Fall 2016, on the other hand, said, “The building is so old and it is falling apart. There are even rats, ants, and lizards. We have a kitchen and a bathroom for 22 students per floor. In Jewett, there is only one kitchen for the whole building, and it’s downstairs. So if you want to cook, you have to take all your stuff downstairs.”
On-campus dorm prices range from $1,360-$1,680 per semester, depending on the choice of double or semi-private room.
When asked about the budget that is allocated for student housing, Nizameddin said that AUB administration devised a capital budget in which costs would be covered by revenues in a specific period of time. However, he did not disclose the amount allocated for each dorm.
Outlook also inquired with Nizameddin about student feedback on living standards, and his reply contrasted that received from many students.
“Thankfully student complaints are very few but when they do they are typically as follows: cleaning and cleanliness, roommate conflict, washing machine use/conflict among users.
But overall survey and poll feedback is that satisfaction is very good and that is why students much prefer on-campus accommodation… We can always do better and strive to do so and for that reason we welcome feedback, knowing there will always be a type of character who will permanently be dissatisfied,” he stated.