Things have been hectic this semester at Grambling State University. On Feb. 7, the campus was rocked with a water outage that led to a protest later that night. That week, GSU President Judson was in the hot seat with the media, community, parents and students.
‘Pyromaniac’ in Pinchback
On March 14, an arsonist set fire to a pile of trash in the stairwell on the eighth floor of Pinchback. The fire did no damage to the dorm; however, the sprinkler system flooded several rooms on the seventh and eighth floor.
The culprit struck again Monday at two separate times. The first incident occurred around noon on the third floor, while the second incident occurred around 3:45 p.m. on the second floor. The second incident ended up doing the most damage, making a bathroom on that floor unusable.
This led to a mandatory residence hall meeting for Pinchback on Wednesday, in which Dr. Pamela Payne, Leon Sanders and GSU Police Chief Jefferson Walker spoke on the importance of safety on campus.
"It was a mandatory meeting in conjunction with fires to increase awareness and warn about what could happen," Walker said.
A fire safety film entitled "Get Out and Stay Alive" was shown to show what to do when a fire occurred. If a fire alarm goes off, students are supposed to leave facility. "Don’t remain in the facility," Walker said. "Don’t take for granted that there is not a fire. Fires can spread rapidly within seconds, ending lives."
Walker also wants the number of false alarms to decrease. "If you know someone pulling the fire alarm, talk to him about it," he said. "False alarms create a false sense of advocacy and students will stop leaving the dorm."
Most deaths resulting from fires occur due to fires releasing toxic fumes, causing smoke inhalation. The university is still investigating the matter and is now offering a $1,000 reward for information leading the arrest of the "pyromaniac."
"(Pyromaniacs) get a thrill out of the fire burning," Walker said. "They’ll set the fire and find a safe place to watch it."
Controlled fire takes a turn
The fire in Pinchback isn’t the only fire that has gotten out of control. On Friday, a controlled fire turned into a wild grass fire, burning several acres of land behind Richmond Hall. According to Sanders, senior associate vice president of university operations, debris from around the campus was being burnt.
"It got out of control," Sanders said. "We then called the fire department." Many of the students of Richmond were not aware that a fire was burning behind their dorm, and Richmond resident Justin LaGrande wants something done about the situation.
"I hope that someone does something to the person who started that fire, because that could’ve caused our dorm to catch fire," said LaGrande. Sanders, however, stated that there was no immediate danger.
"Police officers and fire officials were at the scene," he said. "At no point did they see it was threatening to Richmond. If it had been endangering, they would’ve told (the students at Richmond)."
The university has already taken steps to help prevent a similar incident. "We’ve discontinued fire burning," he said. "We’re going to buy a log chipper to cut up trash and properly dispose of it."
Problems, concerns addressed
Sanders has not only had to deal with the recent fires on campus. With a limited staff due to the budget cuts from Hurricane Katrina, workers are spread thin. Sanders is confident that Facilities is rising to the task.
"We are able to meet many problems on campus," he said. Sanders has already looked at other options to managing the on-going problems.
"We’re trying to get out contractors to help us," he said. Sanders estimated that it would take at least $55 million to fix things on campus, including housing and academic buildings.
"We plan to address the needs in housing by adding new housing," he said. "The average age of a dormitory is 30 to 35 years. The average age of dorms on this campus is 40."
While new housing will be added, Sanders stated that the old dorms will be torn down after students moved out of them. The only dorms to remain standing will be Garner, Hunter Robinson, Jewett, and Richmond. Building new housing is also a continuing development that involves many tasks.
"We’re in the process of selecting contractors," said Sanders. Sanders also stated that the new dorms would be privately funded, totaling between $40 and $50 million. "They will be similar to Drew Hall in concept, but different in layout."
Sanders also confirmed that Pinchback will be a single-person dorm facility in the Fall. "One problem with high rises is too many people," Sanders said. "A lot of people don’t like high rises for some reason. We’re reducing it to half its occupancy."
Pinchback Hall hosts nearly 400 students as now. By the Fall, only 200 students will reside in Pinchback. "Students will feel more comfortable," he said. Residing in a private room in Pinchback will also be cheaper, Sanders said. For a low-rise dorm, a private room reaps a price tag of $1,603. A high-rise private room only totals to $1,269.
This, Sanders says, will reduce the high number of vandalism within the dorms. According to Sanders, the vandalism problems do not just affect the dorms; it affects the facility workers as well. "It’s really draining," Sanders said. "We replace doors 10 to 15 times. The thousands of dollars we spend to replace fire alarms could go to other dorms.
With Pinchback becoming a single-person occupancy dorm, it was rumored that low-rise dorms would begin housing three and four to a room. Sanders dismissed these accusations.
"These (low rise) buildings are designed for two to a room and will remain that way," he said. Sanders stated that the university is contacting outside vendors to house students. Sanders stated that he wouldn’t advise for any students to leave GSU, but also hopes that several students will find housing outside of campus.
Many positive transitions are being made to campus life. Sanders did confirm that students will have expanded cable and wireless Internet, starting in the Fall. Contract details could not be gathered by press time.
Water flows into streets
Adding to the bulky load of duties for facilities, a water pipe burst on Central Ave. on the side of Jones Hall. The pipe pushed up the cement walkway connecting to the sidewalk, spewing warm water that ran to the corner of Central Ave. and R.W.E Jones Dr.
Confirmed reports of water outages ranged from Bowen, Garner, Attucks, and Truth. While the severity of the water situation is not known at press time, GSU Student Kinyada Cassey is tired of the problems.
"Every time we turn around," she said, "we don’t have electricity, a water pipe is busted," said Cassey, Wheatley Hall resident. "All of this money we paid them and they are not doing anything with it. It makes me want to leave this school because of all of this." At the time of the interview, there was no available hot water in her dorm. Cassey also stated that there had been low pressure since the first water line break.
Sanders still wants students to be patient with the university.
"These problems did not arise overnight," he said. "Give us an opportunity to take on the problems. We’re taking the time to address these problems. You won’t find a better affordable education than what you have here at Grambling.