U Of C Students: Dorm Is Plagued With Exploding Toilets, Other Hazards

CHICAGO (CBS) — College students never expect the equivalent of five-star hotel accommodations at their dorms, but some University of Chicago students say the conditions at one dorm cross the line to the unacceptable.

Pierce Hall, 5514 S. University Ave., is a 10-story dormitory dating from 1960. It’s divided into four houses named after U of C professors and other scholars – Henderson, Tufts, Shorey and Thompson. The dorm is as eclectic and quirky as the U of C itself – Shorey House residents have an annual tradition of painting a “bizarre and idolistic statue” that stands in their house lounge, while Henderson House residents have their very own mascot (a wombat) and their own special name for themselves (“Hendus.”)

But right now, many students are fit to be tied about unsanitary conditions throughout the dorm, particularly in the restrooms. They are complaining that water outages and even “exploding toilets” have been a problem since the beginning of the year.

The U of C has vowed to make sure the problems get fixed swiftly.

A first-year student, Michelle Rodriguez, recently testified before U of C student government representatives about some of the incidents. The video testimony was posted on a Tumblr created by Rodriguez and other students to document the problems at the dorm.

Among the incidents was one occasion a couple of weeks ago when a toilet exploded.

“In a 24-hour period, the plumbing exploded twice, and exploded with such force and severity that a toilet bowl… shattered, throwing porcelain shards across the bathroom,” Rodriguez said in the video. “There were, on the floor, there were just rivers of excrement, urine and pieces of porcelain. There were no e-mails, no nothing, no notifications sent from house administration about the issue.”

Following the second explosion, which happened around 2 a.m., the hot water was out for 12 hours, Rodriguez said in the video.

In an article published last week by the Chicago Maroon, Rodriguez gave a graphic description of what happened when she flushed a toilet that she discovered had been left full recently. She said it “turned into a geyser,” and graphically described being left with “pieces of someone else’s excrement on my hair, my face, my lips,” as a result.

The Maroon adds further that in October, the resident head at Shore House advised students to shower at the nearby Ratner Athletic Center due to repeated water outages.

But while the most disgusting problems have arisen in the bathrooms, Rodriguez claims in her student government testimony that there are numerous other safety hazards. For one example, she said, every room has pipes that run along the floor that she claims are “200 degrees” and are not insulated.

“You’re sleeping, your hand falls off your bed, and suddenly you’re woken up with burns on your hand,” Rodriguez said in the video. “I had a friend whose backpack fell against a pipe. She now has a hole burned through her backpack.”

Rodriguez also said some of the locks on the doors are defective and just spin instead of unlocking the doors, leaving some residents locked in their rooms for over an hour. She also said the elevators are “unreliable” and sometimes open “6 to 8 inches below the level of the floor” or even while the elevators are still in motion.

Rodriguez’s Tumblr has been up for a while, but recently received renewed attention when a student tried to take a shower and ended up getting sprayed with “brown sludge,” she said in the video.

Following a meeting last week between 125 Pierce residents and several administrators about the problems, the U of C quickly agreed that the conditions were not acceptable and vowed to take action.

In the interest of rectifying the problems, U of C Housing Services office has set up a “Pierce Updates” page, which lists the latest in plans for taking action on repairs. The university has also dispatched a facilities service staffer to the building, monitoring water pressure 24 hours a day.

When spring quarter begins in late March, the university will also repaint common areas, upgrade kitchens, and buy new lounge furniture.

“At the highest level of University leadership, we regret the conditions you have encountered. We find them unacceptable, and share your determination to improve your quality of life,” U of C vice president for campus life and dean of students Kimberly Goff-Crews said in an e-mail issued this past Wednesday.

CBS Chicago Web Producer Adam Harrington contributed to this report.

  • Toonces

    Cr ap dorms for the big pricetag.

  • Get me outta here!

    Exploding toilets… overpriced, ripoff tuition and fees… brain-dead liberals everywhere… OH, THE HORROR!

    • Toonces

      LOLOLOL ^5

      • Get me outta here!

        Are you Toonces, the driving cat?! Great to meet’cha

    • Gail

      What do liberals (or conservatives, for that matter) have to do with the problems at this dorm building?

      • ME

        Lighten up GAIL. It was a joke and a bit of shade, but no need to explode like the toilets

      • Julio Igleasias

        I believe he was being a bit goofy and referring to Santorums comment of not wanting everyone to go to college because they will be corrupted by all those hippy, liberal, brain dead professors.

      • Guest

        Thats not a joke
        Jokes are funny,not stupid

      • Guest

        Thats not a joke
        Jokes are funny

    • Blah

      yes, everybody describes chicago students as “brain dead.” must be the influence of all the super conservative econ nobel laureates on the faculty.

  • paycheck2payckeck

    What are they serving in the student cafeteria?

    • harbinger2u


  • enjoy1

    The University of Chicago..where fun comes to die

  • http://www.vol1brooklyn.com/2012/03/06/morning-bites-humping-bellows-wife-oxford-press-in-india-university-of-chicago-exploding-toilets-and-more/ Morning Bites: Humping Bellow’s Wife, Oxford Press In India, University Of Chicago Exploding Toilets, And More | Vol. 1 Brooklyn

    […] Behold the exploding toilets at the University of Chicago. […]

  • ME

    Now ain’t that some ish

  • maura

    Call the state dept of health and file a complaint. Raw sewage is a significant heath risk and could lead to tranmission of life threatening diseases such as hepatitis B and C. Those kids should be removed from the dorm until the problems are resolved.

  • BW

    How does buying new lounge furniture rectify the plumbing problems?

    • Nick

      If you visit the Save Pierce blog, you’ll also see the condition of the house lounges which includes broken furniture (which is actually prevalent in many of the older UofC dorms. Last year, my dorm had a couch with a spring that tended to find its way into terrible places). The furniture is the University’s obvious fix that can be done quickly while the plumbing is something that will take more time. It’s an appeasement.

  • Joe

    Sorry to add this but her show of cleavage was quite distracting…

  • http://www.9knotmarketing.com/2012/03/it-happens/ “It” Happens | 9 Knot Marketing

    […] Toilets? It’s possible and these brave University of Chicago students launched an online campaign to be heard after countless complaints about unacceptable living […]

  • http://www.thecrimsoncrow.com/2012/03/toilets-explode-at-university-of-chicago-dorm-admit-they-have-nothing-to-go-on/ Toilets Explode At University Of Chicago Dorm, Admit They Have Nothing To Go On | The Crimson Crow

    […] U Of C Students: Dorm Is Plagued With Exploding Toilets, Other Hazards (chicago.cbslocal.com) /* Categories: News Tags: Chicago, exploding toilet, Michelle Rodriguez, Pierce Hall, Students' union, Toilet, University of Chicago /* */ Comments (0) Trackbacks (0) Leave a comment Trackback […]

  • Alicia

    03/07/2012 I’ve never read of another account of an exploding toilet. There used to be an URBAN MYTH about it happening that the kids in USA made big jokes about. This happened to me in winter of 2006 in Calif. at a fast food restaurant. Men had been working on plumbing–didn’;t lock bathroom or post warning notice. I flushed-toilet exploded-porcelain pieces shot out in many directions. One large on embedded itself in my left hand. I was screaming. Peple ran in ladies room. I fainted. Bathoom covered in blood. I was taken to local hospital where I underwent plastic surgery to save hand & repair it. This is no joke. College students need to be moved out of that dorm now. Pieces of porcelain could hit them in the head or face with great force. Alicia in California

  • Jess

    Lounge furniture? They should be relocating students or refunding their money. If land lords don’t get away with defective plumbing, why should colleges housing students?

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    […] molder of young minds, former employer of President Obama… home of the exploding toilets. Plumbing problems at Pierce Hall have created what one student describes as a “geyser” of poo. The school says they are working on the […]

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    […] Wednesday. I was scouring the internet for funny news stories. The University of Chicago has exploding toilets. A woman was killed with a cannon like it’s the 18th century. A man accidentally called 911 […]

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