Joanna Fu, CC ’16, was watching TV in her room around 2 a.m. on Oct. 25 when her ceiling fell.
“It didn’t crumble and fall—it all fell at once,” she said. “The entire room was covered in dust and debris from the ceiling.”
Fortunately for Fu, who was alone in the room, most of the debris that fell landed on her roommate’s side of their McBain double. However, much of it landed on the bean bag on which she had been sitting only minutes before. Another chunk fell onto her roommate’s iPhone, shattering the screen.
“My roommate calls me around 2 a.m., so I could easily have been sleeping,” Ecem Senyuva, CC ’16, said. “Her voice was really trembling and she said, ‘Ecem you need to come, the ceiling fell.’”
Since then, Fu and Senyuva have been moved into a temporary room on the floor above while Facilities fixes their ceiling. In the five days that have passed, the two students have received one official communication from Housing—an email regarding the status of their room. They say Columbia has, for the most part, failed to support them in the aftermath of the collapse.
The non-personalized email told the students they would be able to move back in Wednesday, but as of Tuesday night, the room was still covered in plastic and dust, and the pair remained skeptical.
Housing and Facilities did not respond to requests for comment by press time.
After the ceiling fell early Friday morning, Fu immediately told her resident adviser what had happened, and after calling the RA on duty, they contacted Housing. Within about 30 minutes, a representative from Housing arrived to give the two students a temporary room, Fu said.
“The lady came and she said, ‘So we have a room for you. We’re going to relocate you to this room.’ She basically gave us not even like five minutes,” Fu said. “She wasn’t mean, she was very helpful. But we didn’t know we were not going to be able to get back in until Wednesday, so we didn’t know we’d need to take clothing and books. So we just got our computer and pajamas, we didn’t even get sheets or anything.”
Because the roommates were not able to grab bedding or basic toiletries, they have been staying at friends’ rooms and with Senyuva’s older sister, who has an apartment near campus.
After checking back in on their original room several times, Fu and Senyuva have seen it in different states of disrepair. As of Tuesday night, it appeared that Senyuva’s side of the room—where the debris fell—has been fixed, but work was ongoing on Fu’s side of the room.
The roommates have not received further updates since the one email over the weekend. When the pair went to Housing on Monday to complain about the lack of communication, they were questioned as to why they didn’t ask for help earlier, Senyuva said.
“We shouldn’t have to actively search down people to make sure we have bedding,” Fu said. “We would at least have hoped to have a livable situation. They should have given someone specific to contact.”
In addition to the lack of information, the roommates said administrators told them that the University would not cover the costs of any property damage caused by the falling ceiling.
“I know that there’s the whole housing liability policy. I understand there’s a New York renter’s agreement where you’re responsible for your own property damage and not the landlord, but at the same time I think we don’t fall in the same category,” Fu said. “When you’re renting the house, you have the active choice of which room you want to be in. You can assess, ‘Is this ceiling going to fall?’ Whereas in Columbia housing, it’s a matter of lottery and luck.”
Despite the damage, though, both students said the emotional stress of the situation has been a much more pressing issue.
“I would have wanted someone to meet with me one-on-one and check if I was OK,” Senyuva said. “Other times they always say, ‘Oh, psychological services is there,’ but here I would have liked someone to check, ‘Are you OK? Do you need anything?’”
Both students emphasized that they realize the ceiling falling was not something Columbia could control, but they would have liked more help in the aftermath.
“The ceiling fell, it’s not directly their fault. But the way they dealt with it made it way, way worse,” Fu said. “We just want to move back in.”