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Ceiling Collapse at El Nuestro Hogar Latino

In February 2021, a section of the ceiling collapsed in one of the second-floor bedrooms of Nuestro Hogar Latino, damaging some of the resident’s property.

Which house was affected?

The residence in question is Nuestro Hogar Latino, a residential and social space to promote and acknowledge Latinx cultures, issues and identities. It is located on W&L’s front campus in “the Hollow” on the east side of Letcher Avenue. The building, which was previously faculty housing, was converted to a coed student residence in response to interest from a group of Latinx students in 2019 and has bedrooms for three students. Two students were living in the house at the time of the incident.

What happened?

A section (about 30 square feet) of the original composition plasterboard ceiling finish separated from the ceiling framing in one of the second-floor bedrooms early on the morning of Wednesday, Feb. 24, damaging some of the resident’s property. No one was injured in the incident.

When and how did W&L staff respond to the incident?

Public Safety was alerted by the residents of the house and handled the initial response, making sure the students had a place to spend the night. Student Affairs staff became involved at 7:30 the next morning, contacting the students to check on them and offer assistance. They secured a loaner laptop to replace the laptop damaged in the accident, purchased temporary bedding and supplies, offered to clean and/or replace any property that was damaged, and arranged for the retrieval of necessary items and temporary housing for both students while repairs were made and inspections completed.

The students were given the option to move to new housing for the remainder of the term or to return to Nuestro Hogar Latino once the repairs are complete. As a precautionary measure, the plasterboard ceiling finish in the other two rooms currently being used as bedrooms has been removed. The ceiling framing has been inspected and new drywall ceiling finish will be installed in the three bedrooms. The repairs are expected to be complete by March 5.

Student Affairs staff are meeting with members of the Latino Student Organization to discuss their needs and potential alternatives for social and residential space moving forward.

Were there known issues with the ceilings in the house? Had complaints been lodged previously?

All student residences are inspected annually during the summer. Room Condition Reports are distributed to students soon after arrival to provide students an opportunity to report damages in residence facilities, and students are instructed on how to submit a work order for repairs at any point during the academic year. A review of facilities work orders over the past 21 months has not indicated any reported issues at Nuestro Hogar Latino that would have caused this event.

Was any maintenance work or renovation done to Nuestro Hogar Latino in preparation for its conversion to a student residence?

The kitchen was renovated in the summer of 2019 and a variety of furniture was purchased or relocated from various parts of the campus. Student Affairs purchased kitchen items, supplies and wall art that was selected by the student who helped initiate the house and resided there during his senior year, along with two other students.

What other issues have been reported in theme housing for students of color? Student housing in general?

The incidence of maintenance issues at theme houses for students of color is no more frequent than any other student residences. With over 1,400 rooms for undergraduate students, issues are not uncommon in any given year or in any residential space on campus, including new construction. These most frequently involve issues with plumbing, electrical, HVAC, pest control and minor carpentry work. Students are asked to report maintenance issues and concerns to University Facilities via a work order. When an incident renders a residence dangerous or uninhabitable, Residence Life staff work with the resident to find safe, temporary housing while repairs are completed.

How is theme housing created and assigned at W&L?

Student Affairs routinely works with groups of students interested in theme housing to find appropriately sized spaces on campus to accommodate student interest. Themes and locations may change from year to year based on student interest and available housing inventory. In the case of Nuestro Hogar Latino, the location was selected by student organizers in 2019 from available campus spaces, based on their expressed desire to have a residential space for a small number of students with the capability of hosting meetings and small group social events. 

Will any student housing be impacted by W&L’s Campus Master Plan?

W&L’s long-term Campus Master Plan calls for the demolition of two student theme houses on Lee Avenue and the construction of optional fourth-year housing on Nelson Street near the Lenfest Center. Neither of these projects is imminent; both are contingent upon funding. The houses in the Hollow on the east side of Letcher Avenue, where Nuestro Hogar Latino is located, are unaffected by the master plan. Residence Life staff will discuss alternatives for the theme houses slated for demolition with interested students when they have a better idea of the timeline.