Multiple students in the two newly-opened student halls of residence, Powell Hall and Whitehorn Hall, have issued complaints to porters and Residential Business Services (RBS) just weeks after moving in.
Several complaints address issues including leaking showers, busted radiators, broken furniture, and a plaster smell throughout the buildings, among others.
Whitehorn Hall also saw problems with showers in its ensuite rooms, an issue which contractors did not have time to attend to before residents moved into the hall.
Residential Services Manager Evelyn Parker informed Whitehorn Hall residents of potential issues as they moved in via Facebook.
In the University and Whitehorn Hall Facebook group, she said, “Prior to handover there were a number of bathroom pod shower trays which appeared to be slow in draining causing the trays to fill up. Unfortunately the contractors were unable to attend to these prior to opening.
“We require access to all ensuite rooms on Friday [2 November] to have all of these showers looked at. We appreciate your help in this matter.”
On Friday 2 November, Ms Parker noted on the Facebook group, “The contractors will need access to rooms on Monday to carry out some of the snagging,” noting four specific rooms for door and window repairs and three other rooms for flooring repairs.
After a five-week delay, students were allowed to move into Powell Hall and Whitehorn Hall during Independent Learning Week (ILW), Monday 22 October to Friday 26 October 2018.
Second-year Ewan Gilligan, who also serves as Treasurer of the Powell Hall and Agnes Blackadder Hall (PABH) committee, spoke to The Saint about issues with his room’s heating, which have been in place since he moved in.
Mr Gilligan said, “At first my radiator didn’t turn on, as they hadn’t connected it up. After being ‘fixed,’ my radiator won’t turn off and is constantly at maximum. This means my room is way too warm, and so I need the window to be open constantly.”
He continued, “My radiator was fixed quickly after the initial complaint, but I reported my radiator yesterday – the builders said they’d be back in an hour to fix it – and it hasn’t been fixed yet.”
Mr Gilligan made his initial comment on Thursday 15 November, and as of Sunday 18 November, his radiator had still not been fixed.
On problems with his room and the porter response, PABH Senior Student Sam Stanford said, “My flatmates and I have all had a few problems here and there, such as paint marks, loose screws, a dysfunctional radiator and the wardrobe drawers coming off.
“The fixes have been rolling in fairly slowly, but I am aware of more important issues being sorted out, which makes sense. In the end I guess everyone is going to have complaints, but the staff are very considerate and it seems like everything will be sorted soon enough.”
Ms Parker informed Whitehorn residents of potential issues via Facebook, noting, “Whilst every effort has been made to ensure that your bedrooms have been cleaned, we still have workmen doing snagging. If you find your room is not clean, then please get in touch with us [as soon as possible].”
Whitehorn resident Noemie Jouas also spoke to The Saint on the issues she has faced since move-in on Monday 29 October.
She said, “Since I moved in, I had a few issues in my room. My radiator was leaking and my shower wasn’t draining properly. I asked to get this fixed and people came in a few days later to fix it but my shower still has draining issues.
“Additionally, my shower recently started making screeching noises whenever I turn it on which is quite unpleasant. We are unable to turn the fan off of the stove in our kitchen while cooking but haven’t asked to get it checked yet.
“Overall, there have been a few issues that, after waiting for seven weeks to move in, I would’ve hoped would’ve been already resolved. For all the trouble we went through living far from town and moving residences with very little support from the University, it’s a shame that there are still complications that aren’t being resolved.”
Powell Hall Operations Manager, Sarah Pay, also informed Powell residents that the hall would still be undergoing work by contractors after students moved in.
She said via email to residents, “From 9 am on Saturday 27 October, students will be moving into Powell Hall. By the end of the day on Wednesday 31 October all residents will have moved in from the temporary accommodation.
“Contractors will continue to be on site for some time to deal with snagging and to complete the external works but hopefully this will not be disruptive work.”
In response to issues reported by new residents of Powell Hall and Whitehorn Hall, a spokesman for the University of St Andrews said, “As with any brand new development, commercial or residential, there will always be a degree of snagging and an expected tolerance of snagging due to equipment being used for the first time.
“As snagging issues are being raised, they are tracked and then rectified by the contractor in a timely manner.
“Due to the proactive steps by the students and the positive interaction with the contractor, the snagging process has gone smoothly and with little disruption.
“Naturally, we apologise if anyone has been inconvenienced.”
On Saturday 3 November, Powell Hall saw faults with its fire alarm system after the fire alarm was triggered in Agnes Blackadder Hall.
The two halls have a linked system for safety in the case of a fire and the risk of a fire spreading.
According to students present in Powell Hall at the time, the fire alarm sounded in the corridors but not in individual students’ rooms, though either both areas or neither area should have sounded.
The University noted that only the main fire panel should have been activated and the issue was highlighted to the system supplier.
A University spokesperson stated, “There is no fire safety concern at either Powell or Agnes Blackadder Hall and both systems are fully operational.”
Shortly after new residents moved in to Powell Hall, the hall committee hosted a housewarming party with cake and wine, for residents of both ABH and Powell Hall, which Returners’ Representative Aaron Fraser noted was successful and well-attended by new residents.
The committee has also elected a Postgraduate Representative to their committee in order to better understand the concerns of Powell residents.
Whitehorn Hall also held a free pizza event on Thursday 11 November to welcome new residents into the hall and allow them to meet each other and their wardens.
President of the Students’ Association Paloma Paige organised a feedback form for residents of Whitehorn Hall and Powell Hall during accommodation week, which took place from Monday 8 November to Friday 12 November.
The survey focused on the Albany Park contingency plans and the move to Whitehorn.
The responses were collated and given to RBS, according to the survey.
Potential Powell Hall and Whitehorn Hall residents previously dealt with accommodation issues in June 2018 after the University alerted them that the two halls would not be finished in time.
Residents were notified that they needed to be placed in alternative accommodation, a placement which lasted six weeks past the previously stated completion date.
Returning undergraduate students to both Powell and Whitehorn Hall were given two options, described as a “contingency measure.”
The first option saw students allocated a temporary room in Albany Park rent-free for seven weeks, with them then able to move into Whitehorn Hall as soon as their room was ready.
For the second option, those residents of Powell Hall and Whitehorn Hall with ensuite rooms were able to transfer their contract to a room in David Russell Apartments (DRA), whilst standard room holders in Whitehorn could transfer to a room in Fife Park.
Postgraduate entrant students were given one option of a maximum of seven weeks in Albany Park and then a return to their initial contract of Powell Hall.
In an email to residents on Friday 22 June, Student Accommodation Services said, “The expected delay in completion of our new halls is due to circumstances entirely beyond our control, and although our contractors are working as hard as possible to meet the original deadline for completion, we cannot take the risk that the rooms may not be ready for the start of term. We very much regret this.”
Students who chose to live temporarily in Albany Park, before transferring to Powell Hall or Whitehorn Hall, were offered free transport and assistance in moving.
Additionally, they were also told that their rooms in Albany Park would be fully furnished with bedding and linen, their kitchens would be equipped with a range of equipment, and flat groups would remain the same in both halls.
Residents who chose the option of seven free weeks in Albany Park and Whitehorn Hall would instead pay £5688, a savings of £1266, while the option of a room in DRAFP would cost £6691, with no savings.
In the email, Student Accommodation Services also informed undergraduate students who were guaranteed a place in Powell Hall that the hall would be turned into a postgraduate-only hall, leaving them to choose either Whitehorn Hall or David Russell Apartments and Fife Park four months after signing their hall contact.
Many displaced residents wrote to the University with their questions and concerns.
A large portion of those affected feeling disappointed and noting that they feel the situation has been handled poorly, with one student noting they were “not entirely convinced the University [had] done their best job with handling [the situation] so far.”
It was revealed in a University Court meeting on 13 April that, due to delays in construction, contingency plans for Whitehorn Hall and Powell Hall were being considered.
However, that information was not publicised to students until 11 May by The Saint.
Student Accommodation Services cited weather issues, particularly the “beast from the east” snowstorm in late February and early March, as reasons for the delays.
At the University Court meeting in April, the meeting minutes noted that “progress, though behind, was still within tolerable levels,” but contingency plans were still being considered.
Around this time, the University agreed with the contractor that construction workers could use the week-ends to catch up on quiet work, including painting.
Whitehorn Hall also came under controversy when the two halls were officially announced in February due to costs.
Whitehorn Hall was initially priced at £5,391 for single standard self-catered yet £9,156 for a single en-suite catered, making it the most expensive room provided by the University of St Andrews.
Meanwhile, Powell Hall costs were set at £6,954 for a self-catered en-suite room.
The costs originally raised complaints with students and the Rectors’ Committee, particularly seeing as the two new halls were announced around the same time as the announcement of the closure of Albany Park, which was previously the most affordable hall of residence at £3,915 per annum.
Rector Srdja Popovic said in February, “We hope to move forward with conversations with students and the University to see how we can best improve the situation for all of us.”