By Kate Delenick
Many McDaniel students see Blanche Ward Hall as their home away from home. It’s where numerous college kids spend weeks on end lounging, laughing, and living. But lately, students are searching for a new place to rest their hearts at night.
A visitor to Blanche soon notices vomit stains on the carpet, obscenities marked in ink on the stairwells, garbage everywhere and sickening smells that just don’t seem to go away. These are just a few of the many problems Blanche residents face on a daily basis.
But who is to blame for this? Is it the resident assistants for not keeping a close enough eye? Is it the Blanche area coordinator? Could the physical plant be to blame? Or should the blame be placed on the Blanche residents themselves?
Sophomore Blanche resident Will Hopkins said, “I think all parties involved are at fault. There are many things that can be done to change the overall appeal of this old dorm. Three rooms on my floor have had bed bugs and nothing has been done to clean those rooms. They are just left stagnate and gross.”
But building renovations may be coming faster than most students think. Lisa Jackson, the Blanche area coordinator since 2006, commented on the maintenance problems plaguing the building. She said that anytime she is told of a maintenance problem she contacts the physical plant.
“They are the individuals who are responsible for the upkeep and maintenance of the buildings and grounds,” she said.
Since the problems are so obvious to students, can any light be shed on these issues? Some residents don’t think so.
“The only good thing about Blanche is the people that live here,” said sophomore resident Ryan Liberatore.
Senior Paige Willoughby, a Blanche resident for almost three years, also has strong opinions on the old dorm. “The same problems have persisted for years — bed begs, mice and so on; the living conditions are just unhealthy.” Willoughby believes no matter how much one cleans his or her room it’ll always remain dirty. “I think it’s about time they do something to the building,” she said.
Perhaps the outcry of students is finally being heard. Plans for a renovation project are currently underway for the old dormitory, according to Director of Residence Life Michael Robbins.
Robbins said that after graduation this May the renovations will get under way. “Floor lounges will be added in the corner area of each floor where the two ‘wings’ meet. The shorter hallway wing will be available for housing in the fall, but there will be ongoing renovation work until the spring ‘09 semester and possibly for a little bit of time into that semester next year.”
New lounges are apparently not the only thing students can look forward to. Lately many students have been dumbfounded by what is happening to the ground floor of Blanche, which is currently vacant.
“It seems like a waste of space and with it looking so dirty down there it could be where many of the bugs are coming from,” said sophomore resident Anthony Bonaddio.
Robbins, however, mentioned renovation plans for that area as well. He said that the ground floor work in the dormitory this past summer was the first phase of a building-wide project. Added to the floor will be bathroom facilities as well as residence hall rooms.
Third floor Resident Assistant Liz Brown said, “I heard new carpets, central air and new furniture. I think this renovation is a good idea.”
For a dormitory built in 1935, many believe the future is finally looking bright. Renovations in the million-dollar range are planned for a building that according to Dr. James E. Lightner’s book, Fearless and Bold, cost $161,042 to build.
“The changes to Blanche are a great move for the school,” said Craig Silbert, class of ’75 and father of current student, Saralyn Silbert, ‘10. “I can’t say anything for sure, but the furniture that’s in Blanche right now looks very similar to the stuff when I was in school and that’s over 25 years ago.”
According to Dr. Ethan Seidel, Blanche has gone through a number of renovations over the past ten years, but nothing close to the “scale anticipated in the current plans.”
But can the students living in Blanche now bear living in the hall for a little while longer? Brown thinks so. “There are perks to better housing in places like North Village and Pennsylvania Avenue houses, but I don’t think it’s that bad.”
With only a few months left with the “old” Blanche Ward Hall, maybe it’s time students and faculty take a moment to embrace it. A change of attitude could be in place for many students, even the current residents. They can be at peace knowing they were the last group of students on the Hill who had to live through the bed bugs, the smells, the leaky showers, the garbage and so on.