Three Years of Cold Feet

By Masha Demers

Issues with broken heating and the mystery that surrounds the thermostats in the dorms have caused many AUC students to spend their winters sleeping under double layers of blankets and wearing at least three sweaters at all times. Their attempts to contact DUWO, the housing agency, have often resulted in nothing but frustration. Some students are developing creative methods to get through the winter.

Already in his third year of AUC, Thijs Vromen, who is now studying abroad, had discovered that his heating wasn’t working as it should’ve, meaning he would be spending the winter in a room that hovered around 14 degrees. What did the experience teach him? That the best way to heat up his room was to cook dinner with a friend.

The combined heat of two people and two hotplates, Vromen explains, was enough to increase the temperature to 17 degrees — which was fine by him. “Besides this, during the winter I just got used to the cold,” he says. 

“In that sense, it was quite nice,” Vromen continues. He didn’t need a coat to go outside until mid-December, and by January, he was having breakfast in his pyjamas with the thermostat at 13 degrees. “Now I’m abroad in a place with decent heating, I have quite distinctly lost this ability,” says Vromen.

Broken heating is not an uncommon issue at the AUC dorms. In December 2018, the Tenants Association addressed this in a Facebook post, which urged students to be a “responsible person” by contacting DUWO, who would solve the issues quickly. However, students have long pointed out that contacting DUWO wasn’t as easy as it seemed. A year later, problems continue.

Third-year student Maria Popescu has had issues with the heating of both the AUC dorm rooms that she has lived in. In 2016, the heating in her room simply did not work. She moved to another dorm — a four-person apartment — where, last year, the frequent water cuts began to affect the heating. “Our heating was more off than on,” Popescu says. “We were calling them like, two or three times a week, because they said ‘yeah, we’re fixing it’, but it didn’t work.”

In another four-person dorm, second-year student Nesrine Moslèh was experiencing a similar story. After many calls and a few visits from the heating company, there was heating on the lower floor of the apartment but not in the bedrooms upstairs. It all came down, she says, to the piping installed by DUWO, which was described to her as “old and prone to malfunctioning.”

“To sort of reimburse us, they sent two small heaters, each for one bedroom, so we wouldn’t freeze,” says Moslèh. Meanwhile, Popescu and her roommates were told by DUWO to buy heaters. They eventually did. Because of the size of the four-person dorm, however, heating it remained a challenge. “We were carrying the heater with us around the apartment – at the dinner table, on the couch, everywhere,” says Popescu. “We only need [heaters] because [DUWO] are not providing us with heat in the first place.”

This year, the problems continue. Popescu and her roommates still don’t have heating on the upper floor of their apartment, where their bedrooms are. According to Moslèh, no one in her string has heating.

For most students, the issue seems to be with air bubbles in the piping. One of the people who tried to repair the heating in Popescu’s dorm explained that, after manually making the water flow, the air bubbles in the piping disappear, and the heating should work again. Indeed, for some students, problems are quickly resolved: second-year student Lisa Philippo got her heating fixed on the same day that she called DUWO.

Fixing the cause of the problem, according to one of the technicians Popescu spoke to, is less straightforward. The only solution would be to replace the whole heating system – which, according to the technician, is unlikely to happen.

“I think we’re just always going to be patching things up,” says Popescu. 

DUWO has not yet responded to requests for comment.


Editor’s note: This news story is part of a collaboration between The Herring and AUC’s journalism course. The story was written, edited, and fact-checked by students of the journalism course. Some content may have been altered by The Herring’s editors for clarity and style.

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