East Campus residents petition for access to clean drinking water 

Sprague Hall on Jan. 3, 2019. Sean Flynn/UConn Photo

After feeling concerning side effects during this semester’s first month, three residents of the University of Connecticut’s East Campus dorms are demanding access to clean water and drinking fountains through a petition. 

Sprague Hall residents Luke Villani, a ninth-semester history and anthropology double-major; Rob Foley, a seventh-semester mechanical engineering major; and Dan Campbell, a seventh-semester accounting major, began petitioning residents of Sprague, Holcomb and other East Campus dorms last Sunday.  

“We request as a whole either more be done to maintain the current water filter and make it more accessible, or that each building be installed, at the minimum, with one water refill station,” the petition said.  

The five residential buildings within East Campus have to share a total of three water bottle refill stations, and students claim these stations are not maintained well. Two stations are located in Grange and Hicks Halls, which are inaccessible to non-residents. The other station is in Whitney Hall, which is closed to the majority of residents between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. 

COVID-19 restrictions have worsened the problem, as students are not allowed to bring their own containers to fill with water. This means that, for those living in Sprague or Holcomb, clean and consistent access to water can be few and far between.  

Two years ago, Villani served alongside CAHNR senator Sarah Hill as a part of her initiative to bring water refill stations to campus. The initiative was successful at Whitney, Hicks and Grange Halls. Since then, water filters have not been consistently replaced, and they are overwhelmed due to dining and dorms all using the same filters. Most dining halls close shortly before 8 p.m., and maintenance has allegedly failed to respond with action to work order requests.  

“We have a really nice building. The aesthetics are great, the people are great. We’re right on campus and right by Horsebarn hill. but the issue is, no one is paying attention to these dorms. The three issues are: no mail room, no game room and no water fountains.”

Villani said.

During the first week of classes, some residents reported developing acne due to the water quality of the showers. Others reported a filthy and sometimes-black filter in their Britas. Villani reported the water station at Grange as having a red filter. He also questioned why Sprague lacks any water fountains, when their dorm is much larger than Grange. 

Alexis Cariddi, a fifth-semester illustration major, has struggled with the inconsistent access to water because there are no fountains in her dorm, Sprague.  

“I’m constantly dehydrated and when I need water I can’t always get it, and the sink water has a horrible taste, Cariddi said. “I’ve even found that if the water gets on my shirt, it leaves something like bleach stains,” Cariddi said. 

Holcomb Hall on Jan. 3, 2019. Sean Flynn/UConn Photo

Heather MacKinnon, a third-semester biology and Spanish double-major, doesn’t understand why her dorm lacks basic necessities while others are providing for students’ wellbeing. She has also experienced uncomfortable side-effects of the water in Sprague, particularly when showering. Like Cariddi, she got acne from showering and she’s discovered the water quality makes her hair greasier — a problem she never has when she occasionally returns home to her parents’ house on weekends.  

“It has been really hard. I feel like almost every other building I go into has at least one water fountain… we have none,” MacKinnon said. “I’m scared to even brush my teeth and rinse. My parents are buying me huge water jugs, which isn’t feasible.”  

Many students are buying copious amounts of plastic water bottles to ensure they have something to drink, causing them to receive an F rating for recycling. Some solutions posed by Villani, Foley and Campbell are to simply maintain stations and give East residents all-night access to Whitney. A more complicated but beneficial solution would be to install refill stations in Sprague and Holcomb. 

When asked how residents respond when they are approached to sign the petition, Foley described a “Thank God!” reaction. 

“In three days, we got 250 signatures and reached every dorm but Hicks. We only came across one resident who wouldn’t sign.”

Foley said.

On the first night of door-knocking, the three students gathered 97 signatures and felt confident they could receive at least 500 signatures by Sunday, Sept. 26. 

Villani is proud to live in East, and has never strayed to another area during his five years here. He has experienced and helped grow an “open” environment that although is very separate from the main happenings of campus, works together well as a close group. 

“Considering this issue affects everyone here, we have had very little, if any, resistance to our movement, with people being thrilled we are pushing ahead on this matter,” Villani said in an email. 

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