Views expressed in opinion columns are the author's own.
I've had the unfortunate experience of living in Queen Anne's Hall these past two weeks. I'm sure some of you know where I'm going with this, but in case you don't, I'll lay it out: Thursday was the first time in a week I'd been able to take a hot shower without disrupting my life. Every other time I've showered, washed my hands or otherwise attempted to live my life using water, I was greeted with either freezing or lukewarm temperatures.
It's not too terrible when you're just brushing your teeth or washing your face, but these conditions are downright horrendous when you wake up to shower at 7 for a class at 9; your room and building are already cold because it's autumn and the temperatures have finally caught up with the season, and then you step into a stream of what feels more like hail than running water. Talk about a nice way to start your day.
The hot water hasn't been consistently out. For Queen Anne's Hall, it's been a fluctuation that seems to have finally remedied itself Thursday (we'll see how long that lasts, though). Before that, I'd been timing my life around the availability of hot water. I'd finish classes and go to my dorm to run the water and see if it was hot, and I'd shower right then if it was, even if I wouldn't have otherwise showered at that point in the day. For myself and about 1,600 other students who live in the North Hill community, something that should be a given necessity has instead become a disruption.
I know things break down and need to be replaced. I also know that on a campus as large as the University of Maryland's, there are constant maintenance requests. I'm sympathetic, or at least I was at the onset of this problem.
North Hill residents received the first alert of a hot water outage Oct. 29 at 5:57 p.m. The email informed residents that Facilities Management had "rectified the situation" and that while we awaited hot water — which would likely be back on in several hours — we could go to Ritchie Coliseum or Eppley Recreation Center for any hot shower needs.
All of that was fine; I'm sure most of us are well aware that things break and need to be fixed. What wasn't OK was the fix lasted just two days, and Oct. 31 at 9:26 a.m. we received yet another email stating that our hot water had gone out yet again. This time, they were generous enough to offer us temporary swipe access active until 7 p.m. that night to unaffected dorms such as Worcester, Wicomico, Carroll and Caroline halls, in addition to the standard Ritchie and the ERC.
I was a little perturbed, sure, but I still attempted to be understanding, although one thing was unsettling to me: Nowhere in the email did Residential Facilities explain why the water had gone out again or how long it would be out. Instead, the only answer students received was that management did "not have an estimate on restoration of hot water service at this time."
So far, North Hill residents have received six additional emails about the state of hot water availability in their dorms, but it wasn't until Nov. 6 that we finally got some answers. We were told Facilities Management had begun "the procurement process" for "a temporary boiler" to replace the faulty one and "new permanent hot water heating equipment." Unfortunately, Residential Facilities still didn't have "a firm timeline" for when the equipment would be installed.
No firm timeline? I'm sorry, I couldn't hear that correctly, I recently lost my ears to frostbite after taking a cold shower earlier this week and then going to a morning class. Because let's face it, who wants to travel to a different building to take a hot shower, only to have to walk back outside with wet hair to get to their dorm room? Certainly not my roommate or me, that's for sure.
The truth is, students have been overwhelmingly patient with this university despite its inability to meet their needs in a timely manner. Where I draw the line, though, is that there has been an utter lack of transparency about the entire thing. Give us swipe access to other buildings, sure. Tell us to hike ourselves with shower caddies in tow across campus to a gym, that's fine. But at least be upfront about what you're doing in the meantime and when we can expect you to get your act together.
Don't dance around the fact that we still don't have reliable hot water by telling us about boilers and such, even though you don't know when to expect them, when you think they'll be installed or when we can expect hot water consistently. Just tell us how long this is going to go on, even if it makes you look bad. We deserve at least that.
Caitlin McCann is a sophomore communication major. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.