For residents living in Elder Residential Hall, the incessant construction noise vibrating the walls and furniture inside rooms has reached a point where residents deem it “uninhabitable.” On April 12, Weinberg sophomore Wesley Shirola shared the link to a petition he started with other fellow Elder residents on the Northwestern University-Class of 2021 Facebook group. By April 21, the petition had gained over 260 signatures from concerning students and family members at Northwestern.
According to Shirola, the construction was supposed to end before the start of the school year. But for unknown reasons, it was pushed back to winter quarter of 2019. On December 10, Northwestern students received an email titled “Elder Hall Dining Commons Renovation Update” from Director of University Food Services Stacey Lynn Brown, indicating that the Elder dining hall would remain closed during the entire school year.
Similar to Shirola, McCormick freshman Devin Shen, who also lives in Elder, described the living experience as totally “unbearable.”
“The construction usually starts around 8 in the morning, waking me up every single morning,” Shen said. “The construction didn’t even stop during the weekends.”
Shirola echoed Shen’s point, adding that the construction continued throughout Reading and Finals Week last quarter.
“The noise of the construction caused sleep deprivation for most of us at Elder,” Shirola said. “I can say for some of us, it negatively affected our academic performance to some extent.”
Students were mostly frustrated with the fact that this construction project took place during the school year.
“I just don’t understand why they couldn’t start the project during summers when most students were away from campus,” Shen said.
Most of the students’ complaints were directed at both the loud noise that resulted from the ongoing construction, and the attitudes of the school administration toward students and their demands.
“When I went to the housing office around 1:30 pm on April 15, the staff told me that there were seven people on that day who already demanded to change to another dorm on campus,” Shen said. “Once I went to talk to them, the staff member was so impatient that she only replied two words to my questions.”
According to Shirola, concerned parents have also sent emails to President Schapiro about the frustrating situation at Elder, but found Schapiro's response rather disappointing.
“We have tried to email and call the administration but most of our attempts went unanswered,” Shirola said. “Even when parents emailed President Schapiro, he responded with only one line: ‘Thanks for the note and I will share this with our facility folks.’”
Students at Elder are now trying to reach a compromise with the school administration to shorten the hours of construction in order to minimize the negative impact it might have on the student body.
“We understand the construction has to keep going,” Shirola said. “We only have two demands that the hours being limited to 10 am to 4 pm on weekdays only and that Elder residents receive some kinds of reimbursement towards the future room and board for the time when the construction was undergoing.”
On April 15, Residential Services hosted a town hall meeting to talk to students about their demands in regards to the ongoing construction project. Director of Operations and Services Carlos Gonzalez said in an email to North by Northwestern:
“Officials from Northwestern University’s Facilities team, along with Student Affairs, Residential Services, Northwestern Dining, and our construction and food contracting partners met with students this week (April 15) to talk about the issues raised in the petition. The group agreed to consider some possible solutions to these concerns, including perhaps adjusting some of the timing of construction work in order to be less disruptive to residents.”
According to Shen, on an April 23 meeting, the University told students that in the future construction hours will be limited: from 9:30 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. The administration also said they will compensate Elder residents with $200 worth of Cat Cash.