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A men's restroom in Santa Clara Hall is closed for cleaning on Friday, Sept. 23.

Santa Clara hall flooding leads to distress for residents

Students frustrated over lackluster response

One of the University of New Mexico residence halls, Santa Clara, experienced flooding on the first floor and basement during Sept. 17 and 18, causing disruption and concern for residents in the building. For some, the incident itself and response from UNM Residence Life and Student Housing highlighted a larger issue of vandalism in the hall that has led to frustrated students.

Ellison Walton, a Santa Clara resident, detailed the response time from emergency maintenance and housing during the initial flooding as experienced by a friend. The friend reported the flooding to the Student Resident Center Commons desk at 11 a.m. By 12:10 p.m., no one had responded to the initial call, so the friend called again and informed the desk the flooding was worsening.

“It was right on people's doors, and it had gotten into one resident's room. Her room was starting to flood. The resident who was making the calls and his roommate had gone to her and let her know that  her room was almost about to get flooded a little before it actually started entering her room,” Walton said.

The Daily Lobo received a recording from an anonymous source involved with student housing that indicated the firefighters who assessed the situation at Santa Clara recommended evacuating students. Housing denied this request, though, moving only the students whose rooms were affected by the flooding, according to the recording.

The flooding was a result of an individual or group of individuals deliberately clogging the toilets and showers in the first-floor men's bathroom, DeAnna Padilla, assistant director of Residence Life and Student Housing, wrote to the Daily Lobo.

“This caused an initial backup that resulted in water and waste material overflowing in the shower stalls, toilet area, and into the hallway and basement laundry facilities below the restroom,” Padilla wrote. “As for the ‘second' leak — we learned that additional plumbing work was required to fully resolve the initial plumbing issues. To ensure there are no potential risks of more flooding, we have hired All Fired Up Plumbing Company to evaluate our plumbing and give us any necessary recommendations.”

The act of vandalism that caused the flooding was not the only incident of vandalism Santa Clara has seen in the last few months. Since last spring, the residence hall has seen a string of vandalistic acts where groups of people have broken into rooms and thrown in various food items such as raw eggs and opened cans of corn, according to Walton.

In addition to the flooding and food attacks, a potential fire risk on Sept. 18 from the electrical outlet in the basement raised residents’ concerns even higher, according to Walton.

“There were all sorts of students worried that a fire happening was a potential issue. So many students started finding other places to stay after with friends in different halls. I had a friend come to me and asked me to drive him to a hotel that his dad booked for him,” Walton said. “Some students went down to the SRC desk and asked to be moved into emergency housing in the SRC apartments. There was just a lot of concern and uncertainty about the situation.”

Sean Winthrop, a Santa Clara resident and member of Affordable Student Housing UNM, said the situation has had negative effects on students living in Santa Clara.

“And they claimed that the building has been cleared by Environmental Health and Safety, and all of this, but it's kind of become a situation. And it's been very stressful for the last couple of days,” Winthrop said.

Anthony Wallace, acting president of Affordable Student Housing UNM, stated that he and his organization have goals set to help fix the situations in housing in order to support student health.

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“So there's been research … since about 2016 that (UNM) housing is in such a crisis on campus and off campus that it's affecting student health. And there's nothing really been done … We're going to be writing a resolution for the UNM Board of Regents to declare a health emergency related to housing. This isn't just the problems at Santa Clara or Coronado. I mean, this is getting ahead of a crumbling infrastructure,” Wallace said.

Padilla wrote that precautions were taken to ensure the safety and health of students residing in Santa Clara through various cleanings and consultations, including cleaning and sanitizing the first-floor bathrooms, removing and cleaning carpet, as well as having hired a third-party contractor — Stematic — “to assess and sanitize the affected carpeted areas.”

“The basement was cleaned and sanitized, and the laundry facilities have reopened for use. Additionally, RLSH staff consulted with other UNM Departments (Facilities Management and Safety and Risk Services) to assess the situation and ensure appropriate actions had been taken. It was confirmed to our staff that we took all the necessary actions,” Padilla wrote.

Wallace said that these issues, as well as concerns of safety and accessibility, greatly affect the student population. Wallace would like to see more action on UNM’s part to address these issues.

“The thing is, as much as UNM has these values, missions, equity, diversity statements, it's all bullshit if you don't actually put them into action, right? And that's really what we've been seeing is all talk and no action,” Wallace said. 

Elizabeth Secor is a beat reporter for the Daily Lobo. She can be contacted at news@dailylobo.com or on Twitter @esecor2003

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