Mirror File Photo

Townhouse 74.

Beanbag chair.

Cigarette.

Five years ago these three ingredients caused the fire that would lead to the locking of all townhouse basement doors.

When the smoldering cigarette ignited with the beanbag chair, awakening its occupants in the early morning hours back in 2007, the fire alarm not only alerted authorities of the trouble but the University as well.

“Because of that fire we were realizing that we were putting our students in unsafe conditions,” said Dean of Students Karen Donoghue.  “If there was ever an emergency, students would be trapped in that basement.”

The University’s fire code requires that there be two ways out of the basement.  Currently the only way out is the way in, a rickety old staircase that you probably wouldn’t let your own grandmother walk down.

“I believe that if the University was concerned with safety, they would have completely cordoned [the basements] off, or had some foresight to put exit doors to the outside of the townhouse unit,” said Jordan Freeman, ’13.

Conversely, University officials believe that they have taken proper measures to keep students out of the basements, stating it would take a “malicious” act to open the door.

As the basements currently stand, they are only meant for maintenance access.

Occupancy aside, the basements are not well suited for storage either.  University officials say that the basements are not watertight and often get wet.

Then Area Coordinator for the townhouses in ‘06-’07 and current Associate Director of Residence Life, Charlie Sousa, said he could see the lure of the basements.

“I know people play [beer pong],” Sousa said, “… but the basements are dirty.  It would be like rubbing a ping pong ball in the dirt outside and then playing with it, that is what the floors of the basements are like.”

However, even with all the deterring from the University, students are still popping open locks for what they see as the perfect party spot.

Many juniors living at the townhouses have considered opening up their basements and every once in a while some have decided to actually follow through.

“Basement parties are insane,” said a sophomore village resident who wished to remain unnamed. “There was one [on Friday] at a house on the 14 block. First thing I’m doing when I get my townhouse is opening up that basement!”

The student did not wish to comment any further on the subject but did mention that the party was not broken up by the Department of Public Safety or RAs, and that the owners themselves unlocked the door.

Freeman believes the risk of getting caught with an open basement definitely outweighs its reward.  Nonetheless he stated, “I do not think it is fair, and I think [the basements] should be made available.”

Townhouse residents live in the most spacious living spaces on campus, but are also left with the burden of a dark, dirty and dangerous basement.

Stephanie Papillo, ’13 said, “The townhouse residents know the dangers and consequences of the basements, but until the university makes them safe to occupy, students are going to continue to break in and party.”

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