Radiator leaks have students hot and bothered

Christina Alexander

Evanston’s plunging temperatures may have students dreaming of Florida’s sunny shores, but inside some Northwestern dorms it’s more like the Amazon than the Arctic.

“I woke up at 6 a.m. and I was sweating,” Medill freshman Erin Arbaugh said. “It’s ridiculous.”

Students are trying everything to beat the heat, from leaving their doors open for better ventilation to switching their flannel pajamas for lighter clothing.

But the university advises against one of the most obvious methods of cooling rooms down — opening the windows.

“It’s seriously 95 degrees, and I walk around in shorts and a T-shirt, because I’m scared to open my window,” Medill freshman Kim Weisensee said.

According to an e-mail sent out to all on-campus students from University Residential Life and Housing Services, the cold winter air can cause radiator pipes to freeze and crack. Pipe cracks could cause radiators to leak or even explode, potentially severely damaging students’ rooms and property.

A radiator burst and flooded two rooms in Foster-Walker Complex Friday afternoon, said Asst. Chief Daniel McAleer of University Police.

One of the students told police that none of the items in his room were seriously damaged.

Even students complying with NU’s recommendation to keep windows shut during the cold winter months may need to keep an eye on their heaters.

Weinberg senior Susan Morris’ radiator malfunctioned during Winter Break — now she can no longer live in her room. She returned to her room in the Sigma Alpha Iota house on Jan. 2 to find that it had been turned into an incubator for mold because of a radiator leak and the high temperature of her room.

“I thought I was going to have a nice afternoon to do what I wanted, and then there was just this smell,” she said.

Morris notified her RA and within 10 minutes a facilities management worker arrived on the scene.

The worker needed to replace one of the radiator’s valves, Morris said. The university moved her into a different room until the mold could be removed from the walls and ceiling.

Music freshman Rebecca Fisher spent Monday night in guest housing at McCulloch Hall after her radiator started leaking a little past midnight on Sunday.

Within a few minutes, two inches of water had collected on the floor and seeped through the wall into the room next door, she said.

“Thank God I was in the room,” Fisher said. “I got everything important out and threw it in the hallway.”

Both Fisher and her roommate’s computers were saved and damage to other items was minimal, she said.

In the past NU has helped to cover the costs of replacing students’ property if it was damaged by radiator problems. However, this won’t be the case for future instances of radiator malfunction that can be traced back to open windows.

“The resident may be held financially responsible for damage to the building as well as their own possessions,” said Mary Goldenberg, director of residential life, in Jan. 14 e-mail.

Students whose rooms are unbearably hot are recommended to use the external controls on their heaters to adjust the temperatures, but that doesn’t always work, said Medill freshman Troy Boyd Jr.

“I worked with my controls,” he said. “I turned them all the way right and all the way left. It didn’t work.”

The e-mail also advised students to speak to their RAs about any heater problems, but according to Andrew Hinderaker, Area Coordinator for the Freshman Quad, no complaints have been made.

Reach Christina Alexander at [email protected].