By Rachael Gerron
Web Content Assistant Manager
Beginning Monday night, water flow in three buildings at Bobcat Village residence hall caused fire alarms to go off and residents were forced to relocate indefinitely- given no housing options from the university other than to stay in a COVID-19 quarantine building in the complex.
After a day of rolling blackouts across San Marcos, fire alarms went off in a building at Bobcat Village Monday evening, and about 20 students were evacuated. As the sun was setting and temperatures dropped, students were left to stand in frigid temperatures as they waited for about an hour for the University Police Department to arrive. They were not permitted to enter cars near the building to warm up due to their uncertainty of the building’s safety.
However, freshman resident Jessica, 18, said she and other residents of the building began piling into cars with neighbors to stay warm amid a pandemic.
“We had to break our orders just to get in a car to stay warm and not freeze,” said freshman Jessica Ruckstuhl. “And we didn’t have the luxury to stay COVID safe even though this campus promotes COVID safety as a priority…”
After further investigation, there was no indication of flooding in the building. To shut off the alarm, Texas State maintenance also had to shut off the sprinklers, and consequently, they deemed the building unsafe to stay in. Residents were given the option to stay with a friend, drive home, sleep in a car or stay in a COVID-19 quarantine building.
Bobcat Village residents feel that the University had no plan of action for such emergencies and due to their negligence, residents were left with no safe options in this situation.
Since Monday, other buildings in the complex have been evacuated for similar reasons and given the same shelter options. Resident Carson Corzine said as a result of these evacuations, he housed 10 people in his apartment for multiple days with no electricity or food.
“We are getting hungrier by the day- the only way we are able to get food is to drive on unsafe roads, which we aren’t willing to do, so we are starving instead,” Corzine said. “And most of all, we are mentally exhausted [from] hearing fire alarms all night, flashlights in each other’s faces, and blankets that smell like straight BO at this point.”
Students have received little communication from the Department of Housing and Residential Life about a plan of action for the next few days, nor has the department addressed the building evacuations.
Texas State University President, Denise Trauth, sent out an email Wednesday afternoon telling parents and students that she wants to ensure their safety.
“We cannot open other large indoor spaces on our campuses such as the University Events Center or LBJ Student Center for warming centers because they are also impacted by the rolling blackouts,” said Trauth. ”We are prioritizing power delivery to on-campus residence halls and dining facilities to serve our students.”
Students at Bobcat Village, an off-campus residence hall, felt that this prioritization excluded them. The complex was not experiencing rolling blackouts because power was out for over 24 hours, and the periodical power would have been beneficial for these residents.
One resident contacted a shelter because she recently found out she was pregnant and felt that the accommodations offered by the university were unsafe. This resident would like to remain anonymous due to her unannounced pregnancy, but she says she is disappointed in the university’s lack of planning and communication.
“Communication is just so poor right now. Every other school in Texas- every university- is doing such a better job,” said the resident. “Even junior colleges are doing a better job.”
After days of living without power, and food in some cases, students in the residence hall took their grievances to social media Tuesday. The next day, Texas State deployed a warming bus to Bobcat Village (a day after on campus residents received busses.) Texas State also stated in an email that they would provide residents with snack bags and water bottles.
Many residents sought shelter elsewhere already due to evacuations and unsafe living conditions, and felt that this action was too little too late. Residents believe the university should compensate students for their expenses.
“There are people paying hundreds of dollars to stay in a hotel room because Texas State evacuated them, or people who couldn’t stand it anymore because they weren’t providing resources,” said the resident.
Residents like Jessica also believe that students did more for each other than the University did for them within the first three days of this disaster.
“As students, we did everything we could,” said Jessica. “We stocked up on food but it turned into allocating our resources that we bought with our own money so people in worse conditions could eat. The school didn’t do that.”
Students in the evacuated buildings are still awaiting a response from the Department of Housing and Residential Life about when they can return to their apartments.
Featured image by Rachael Gerron