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2010 Winter Issue 1 (January 15, 2010)

Reynolds House out of commission after mysterious freeze-up

January 15, 2010
By Quinn Stewart

Reynolds House, Carleton College’s Jewish Interest House, was shut down this term after its interior was discovered thoroughly frozen at the end of winter break. Three students have been displaced until the house thaws out.

According to Facilities Project & Safety Coordinator Gregory McCracken, Campus Security reported the freeze-up on the morning of Jan. 2. In what would have otherwise been a customary housing inspection, security officials found frozen pipes, split radiators and a broken boiler. Ice puddles had formed on the floor; water in the toilets and sinks had frozen; the temperature inside the house at the time of inspection was -20 degrees. The source of damage: two windows found open in the basement.

Ben Somogyi ’12 was the first of the house’s three residents to arrive at the scene of the freeze-up.

“Right when I walked in, a worker was working in the living room and told me I shouldn't be in there. All of the radiators were taken apart and the house was a complete mess.” He then called housemates Adriane Kisch-Hancock ’12 and Jimmy Rothschild ’12 to deliver the news.

Kisch-Hancock recalls the flurry of emails that greeted her upon returning to campus, each update extending the anticipated duration of her residential displacement.

“First they told us that we could move in on Monday [Jan. 4th], and then the next email said that it would take an additional day or so. By Monday we got another email basically saying, ‘Just kidding; it’ll be at least two months.’”

Sympathetic to the disenfranchised trio, Residential Life staff members were quick to respond with alternative living arrangements. With the help of Associate Director of Residential Life Amy Sillanpa, Director of Residential Life Steve Wisener and Reynolds House Faculty Advisor Stacy Beckwith, the students were provided with commodious Musser doubles and dining hall meals free of charge. Since then Somogyi, who prefers off-board arrangements, has opted to live in Jones House at 200 College Street.

“It's absolutely beautiful and above all huge… I'll be here all term and hopefully next term as well,” Somogy said. For Somogyi, at least, the Reynolds freeze-up seems to have landed him top-notch accommodations that he doesn’t plan to give up any time soon.

Jones House has also become the temporary hub for all Jewish Students of Carleton (JSC) activity, according to JSC President Avi Fine ’11. Reynolds House, the center for Jewish culture at Carleton, ordinarily would have been the venue for functions such as Shabbat dinners and weekly Torah study. Although the sudden closure of Reynolds and the relocation of the JSC’s central meeting location may have been a nuisance, Fine believes that “the inconvenient parts of the situation are over at this point” and calculates no further disruptions in JSC programming. Fine was especially pleased with the efforts of Facilities workers, who packaged and relocated Reynolds House contents including kosher kitchen supplies and an extensive collection of Jewish literary works. The Reynolds foosball table has been recovered from the basement and now rests high, dry, and warm in Jones House.

Gregory McCracken, who has seen far worse in the course of his 39 years with Carleton College’s Facilities crew, characterizes this freeze-up as a relatively contained case. “If [the house] had started freezing from above,” McCracken said, “sprinklers would have started flowing and we could have had a lot of damage to college and student property. We lucked out that way.”

Now that the inhabitants and belongings of Reynolds have been comfortably situated elsewhere, maintenance and facilities teams are collaborating to warm up the house systematically. The thawing process will warrant painstaking caution so as to reduce the risk of pipe bursts, water leakage, and the resulting potential for insidious molds and mildews.

Perhaps most troubling is the absence of a clear explanation for why the two basement windows of Reynolds were left open in the first place. According to security officials, all windows were closed when the house was inspected at the beginning and middle of winter break. It did not appear as though anyone had broken into the house; beyond the belief that whoever opened the windows had key access, though, the administration has no basis for identifying a party at fault.

As for Kisch-Hancock, Rothschild, and Somogyi, there is much cause for optimism. Facilities and Maintenance crews have Reynolds utility upgrades—ranging from added insulation, to a higher-efficiency boiler, to a replacement ceiling—well underway. Under the auspices of fair weather to expedite the gradual, manual reheating process, Reynolds House will be hospitable for its intended 2009-2010 residents and JSC functions by the end of winter term.

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