by Gabriella DePinho, Editor-in-Chief
Manhattan College’s veteran population celebrated Veteran’s Day in a variety of ways. Some marched in New York City’s parade, some were at the veteran’s gallery held in the Flatiron Building, and others were saving furniture from two inches of standing water.
On Nov. 11, a cold water intake pipe leading to Thomas Hall’s second floor men’s bathroom burst and flooded the Veteran’s Success Center. The center finally reopened on Jan. 22.
“Thankfully, the half of us that were up here were in the room. It was kind of the end of the day, maybe four or five o’clock, and all of a sudden water started coming in through the bottom of the floor,” said Tiana Sloan, the director of the veterans success program.
“We were pretty calm when it first started because there were 14 of us in here. Then everything on the floor starts soaking wet and we started taking everything out of here as fast as we could,” said Michael Grigware, a student veteran majoring in mechanical engineering.
While some moved furniture into Café 1853, a few took the time to reach out to Public Safety and Physical Plant. They were able to shut off water to the building, but only after the entire center had flooded and water pooled out into the hallway and started creeping towards Café 1853.
The students in the room did not even realize the room was flooding at first.
“At first we thought it was the TV because it was kind of like a static noise. But then it kept going when the TV was off. Then we saw a puddle start creeping out and then we opened up that [wall] and we just see the pipe burst,” said Grigware.
While the students were able to salvage what was in the center, the veteran population still found themselves without a home base on campus.
“So from that point on, we had to close the room because there had been a few inches of water in there. And we were kind of temporarily just having to move into temporary rooms around campus. So every single day, we were moving from room to room around campus, which worked well until about finals which then you can’t get rooms,” said Sloan.
“The Kelly Commons was the first choice because that is more centrally located. I would say about a third of our student veterans, take classes or even probably up to 40 percent of our student veterans take classes on the south campus. So I generally as much as I could get space in the Kelly Commons that was it,” she said.
The center serves as both a social and a study space for the veterans. In its primary location, the center has laptops that the veterans have access to whenever they need them. Moving around made keeping the laptops secure very difficult so access to them was difficult to coordinate. Additionally, with the frequent space changes, the veterans often did not know where they could go.
“[It was] very inconvenient, lots of last second changes. We ordered coffee to it on a regular basis and cookies to it but sometimes there were scheduling conflicts with the exams and the room we were supposed to be in we would be in there studying have to get evicted for an exam, or stuff would have to change last second for other people,” said Jamie Foley, the president of the Student Veterans Organization.
Finally, at the beginning of the winter intersession, the Veterans Success Center was given a fixed temporary location: the atrium in Café 1853.
“We moved our couches. We moved everything. We couldn’t lock it, but at least gave like a regular space that if you were coming and looking for a textbook or you needed to just connect with a peer or you just wanted to sit in a quiet space. It was a place that they knew was a regular space that they could depend on,” said Sloan.
“Space in New York City is a premium, so space on this campus is a premium,” she said.
While it was nice to again have a space to themselves, the veterans were looking to return to the small but cozy spot they could call their own.
“It’s a place that anyone any of the veterans can kind of walk in, we have coffee, we have snacks are friends, we have their books, we have all their resources,” said Sloan. “It’s the type of room that people can walk into and just say, I’m not having a good day, and there’s a room of people that are there to support them.”
“It was disruptive, you know, having to move day to day at the end of the semester, definitely kept some people from connecting the peer support that’s really needed at the time of finals,” she said.
The college responded to the situation and repaired the room just a little over two months from the initial incident so the room could be open for the early weeks of this semester. However, the response was not as fast as the impacted group felt it could be.
“So right as we were going into the break, we were unsure of a solution but right before we went into break, the school came through and said like, yes, we are recognizing this as a problem. We are going to fix the room. What do you guys need? And so what they did was they replaced the sheetrock and the flooring,” said Sloan.
“We’re glad we have a space again, but we went the second half of last semester through finals week without a dedicated space when people were expecting to have dedicated space,” said Foley.
According to Foley, student veterans sent a number of emails to top administrators asking for the repairs. He claims that even a veteran alumnus sent an email to school leadership, which helped spur the college’s response to the situation.
“I don’t think it should have taken that long. Our emails were sitting in inboxes either unread or whatever for quite some time trying to go through the right channels,” said Foley.
“Even though we had to go through the wrong process [of the alumnus’s email] to get it fixed, like we really had to go above what it should be, we’re glad it’s fixed,” he added.
While the veterans were waiting for the college to respond, they got used to the space places like Kelly Commons and the Café 1853 atrium offered them.
“The other space we were in was really nice because we had more space and as we had more space to grow into, the room stayed full. We had 15 people in there. We would have 15 people in here on a regular basis if we had the seating for it but more often than not people will come to the room and they’ll see there’s no seats left and they will be turned away and go to the library,” said Foley.
The veterans hope to one day see their permanent space moved somewhere else on campus.
“A bigger space and been our number one priority probably since the semester after this center opened. We very quickly utilized this space. It’s a closet for 130 people on campus, about 15 percent of them are consistently in the room,” said Foley.
“I think the biggest thing is the veterans community here keeps growing. And because maybe this is not noticed by the school, but as it grows, the room doesn’t get any bigger but the population does. We’re not asking for a whole floor for us but it’d be nice to have something bigger,” said veteran student Miguel Diaz Morales.
While the center is still as small as it is for now, the center leadership is just happy that the veteran students no longer have to bounce around from room to room on campus.
“I think it hit at a tough time where I know there’s been a lot of change in leadership in the school and not having a VP of Facilities. I think it just happened at a really difficult time. And I think while the response wasn’t as quick as we hoped, we’re really happy that it eventually got addressed,” said Sloan.