Tales from 'The Jungle': An interview with a former North resident

The exterior of the North dining hall on the UConn campus in Storrs, Connecticut, in a Daily Campus file photo. (File Photo/The Daily Campus)

North Campus certainly has some stories lurking within its halls. From undercooked chicken in the dining hall, overbearing RAs and crazy college freshman parties, it’s little wonder that it’s called “The Jungle.”

The name isn’t recent, either. In the 1960s and 70s, Vietnam veterans used to room in North, when the halls were still all connected in a continuous “U.” That is, until students began disassembling motorcycles and re-assembling them inside the building for joyrides. The university then bricked up the halls, leaving behind a legacy and very inefficient air circulation.

The fun hasn’t stopped, of course, as former North resident Cole Petano can attest to. A fourth-semester english major currently living in East, Petano has had more than his fair share of the so-called “college life” while living in New Haven hall during his freshman year.

“When I was there on the first day getting all settled in my mom and I walked past two girls in the Quad.” says Petano. “They were smoking a hookah, with all the freshmen and their parents walking by.”

One could say that it only went downhill from there.

While dorms are generally not on the same level as a five-star hotel, to hear Petano tell it, there were parts of the hall that were shoddier than others.

“When we first came in, the heater was broken.” Petano alleges. “We couldn’t change the knob without burning our hands, until we called in a maintenance guy. At two points [in the semester], ceiling tiles fell off randomly and had to be glued back on.”

North campus residents are famous for their party life, and Petano confirmed that the legends are not far from the truth.

“The guys at the bottom of the hall would party at night, usually on Thursdays and Sundays… you’d think that it wouldn’t be a good day to do it,” Pentano said.

“The closest toilet to the door in the bathroom was used for vomiting into… [older] residents told me, ‘Don’t use that one, it’s the vomit toilet.’ Ironically, it was cleaner than the other ones,” Pentano said. “Of course, it didn’t stop people from vomiting in other places, like the sinks. I’d go there to brush my teeth, and there would be lo-mein in the sink.”

When not occupied with partying, the more rambunctious residents occupied themselves with other activities. Petano recounts a large-scale prank war that occurred between two roommates down the hall.

“Someone’s mattress was lifted entirely off of the bed, blankets and all, and delicately placed placed across the bathroom stalls, without moving the pillows or anything. The retribution for that one was that the other guy moved all [the original pranker’s] stuff into the showers. The desks, the dressers... We couldn’t use the shower that night. I went to the other floor’s,” Pentano said.

Some pranks were more mundane. “Around Thanksgiving, there was a ‘What are you thankful for?’ board in the hall, and you used sticky notes [to tell what you were thankful for.] The only people who participated grouped the sticky notes strangely-- in little groups scattered around the board. Some of them had stuff like, ‘Mom’s’, ‘Plan B’, ‘My right hand’ and ‘Yeast.’ And nothing else.”

Being a resident assistant for a North Campus hall is a task in and of itself, Pentano said. It’s not surprising that some RAs are unable to handle the drama of student shenanigans.

“Our first RA disappeared under mysterious circumstances.” Pentano says. “For a stretch, we had no RA. When we asked the new RA that came in about it, we were told, ‘He fucked up and I’m not allowed to tell you the details.’”

The most memorable North Campus incident, however, was probably “Creepy Bathroom Guy,” as Petano calls him.

“I would go to pee at 2-2:30 in the morning on a Friday or Saturday, and [this guy] would, without fail, be there, drunk or smelling like weed. Every week, he would ask me how my classes were, and invited me to parties, while I was peeing. He’d never remember that I’d refused the week before, and would ask again the next time.”

Since moving to East for his sophomore year, Petano is glad to be out of North.

“It’s hard to imagine that it stays the same, since people move out after their freshman year.” He says. “But at the same time, you’d think it’s the same. My mother [used to live there], and according to her, this is the toned-down version. People used to fling things out the windows, and she’s disappointed that it couldn’t happen anymore, since they bolted the screens on.”

As for whether he has any fond nostalgia for North, after all his time there, Pentano’s answer was a firm no.

“They should’ve knocked it down instead of Connecticut Commons,” Pentano said.


Marlese Lessing is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at marlese.lessing@uconn.edu.