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Howard Plaza Towers marred by malfunctions in first week of spring semester

Howard Plaza Towers East is currently undergoing mass renovations after water damage and electrical issues led to wrecked rooms, personal belongings and more than 100 displaced students.

A part of the 8th floor in Towers East was sectioned off for repair. (Ananya Hota/The Hilltop)

A water line failure at Howard Plaza Towers East last month led to significant water damage affecting around 60 units and 125 students, according to an email sent out earlier this month by Diante Blakey, the director of on-campus housing and operations. 

Additionally, both Towers East and West experienced power generator failures and subsequent power loss in units, marking a turbulent first week of the spring semester for Howard Plaza Towers residents.

According to an article released by The Dig, the Office of Residence Life is providing support and temporary housing for affected students in various residence halls. They have said that safety measures, including air quality tests, have been implemented. To ensure students have temporary housing, they along with their personal belongings were relocated to other residential buildings on campus.

The Hilltop reached out to Blakey, Associate Vice President for Student Affairs Glen Vinson and Interim Director of Residence Life and Howard University Housing Shay McDuffie several times with requests to comment but were met with no response.

Because of Howard Plaza Towers’ water line and power failures occurring on Dec. 18 and Jan. 11, students have been left with the task of adjusting to their new living conditions. Some only had a small understanding of the extent of the damage until they returned to the scaffolding and moving trolleys congesting the halls.  

While some students have only had to move a few rooms down the hall to relocate from the water damage, others have had to move several floors from where they once lived.  Some said that they had never received any notifications, while others were only aware of the flooding.

When approached by The Hilltop for comment, students impacted, as well as resident assistants, graduate assistants and security guards, said they had very little knowledge of what exactly was going on in the buildings. 

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Sophomore finance major Desmond Daisey first heard the news about the damage from a friend whose room was affected in Towers East. The Kentucky native was later told he had to move from the ground floor to the eighth floor of the Towers East building. Daisey believed Howard did not provide enough communication about the situation to him, which he said made it more challenging to navigate.

“It was definitely a lot,” he said. “When I arrived they made it seem as if they already tried to communicate with me and I wasn’t reached out to at all.”

“It’s not necessarily Howard’s fault, but they should have done more in the first place to make sure things like this don’t happen to begin with,” Daisey continued. On his first day back to campus, he was tasked with moving all of his items alone, forced to pack up and leave the room in which he spent his entire fall semester.

According to an email sent to affected students and other residents from the Office of Residence Life and University Housing on Jan. 10, due to the floods, the power system in the East and West Towers was disabled resulting in the shut off of the internal air circulation in the buildings. The lack of air circulation led to an odor from the water-damaged areas. 

“When you return to the buildings, you will observe third-party contractors working to restore the affected apartments and other areas from the December 18th incident. This work is expected to last for approximately 3-4 months,” the letter said.                                 

Parts of the eighth floor at Howard Towers Plaza East have been closed off for repair caused by extensive water damage. (Ananya Hota/The Hilltop)

Christina Taylor, a junior clinical laboratory major from Baltimore emphasized how the school’s response to such problems called its reputation into question.

“With us being off campus for 2-3 weeks, and the situation still not being handled, to me it just seems lazy,” Taylor said. “People pay five figures every year for their systems and buildings to be up to date, and nothing is of standard. We are the Mecca, I expect to visibly see it.”

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Copy edited by Alana Matthew 

Correction: A previous version of this article stated that The Hilltop reached out to Director of Residential Life Shelton Higgins. Higgins left this position and is no longer the director of Residential Life.

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