Campus, News

Portion of HER house collapsed after issues with roof were left unresolved

A portion of the Harriet E. Richards Cooperative House ceiling was removed Tuesday after residents expressed concern that it was sagging. COURTESY OF CASSIE BERTA

A resident of the Harriet E. Richards Cooperative House on Bay State Road tweeted the ceiling had collapsed Tuesday, writing there were unsafe living conditions Boston University Facilities Management and Operations had previously flagged.

The tweet, posted by Cassie Berta, a junior in the College of Communication, included a picture of the portion of the ceiling that had fallen onto the floor. 

Berta said BU Facilities responded quickly and came to the scene soon after they were notified and removed the damaged ceiling tile.

“Facilities responded really quickly, they came and made sure it wasn’t anything structural and they took out the tile that was falling down,” Berta said. “Housing and Environmental Health and Safety responded really fast and they were taking it really seriously which is good.”

Niya Doyle, a sophomore in the College of General Studies, lives in the HER house and heard the ceiling collapsing Tuesday morning.

“I was about to wake up, I was half asleep,” Doyle said, “and then I heard a kind of crash sound that completely woke me up.”

Doyle said she initially didn’t see anything in the hall and later learned of the incident in the HER house’s Facebook group when a housemate posted about the collapse.

Doyle said the house has multiple issues that have been reported a number of times throughout the semester, but many have not been fixed.

“We feel largely neglected by BU’s housing and facilities, because there’s a lot of work to be done in the house regarding the structure,” Doyle said. “The real problem is the roof, because the roof is leaky and it hasn’t been fixed for years.”

BU Spokesperson Colin Riley said BU Facilities is aware of the problems in the house, but that repairs will take time. 

“When you need to [re-]do an entire roof,” Riley said, “you do patchwork until you can get to the point where you get it approved, particularly on an historic building.”

The HER house is a specialty housing unit on Bay State Road. It houses 24 female students each year, many of whom are fully dependent on financial aid. 

Berta said she is frustrated because the HER house is the only low-cost housing option on campus that does not rely on on scholarship or need-based tuition aid, but their safety concerns are not being addressed.

“[BU] didn’t have the funds to fix it in the summer and they’ve kept pushing it back and back and back,” Berta said. “They said in the spring is when they’ll do what they said is cosmetic fixing of the roof, but it’s been going on for so long.”

Riley said that a total roof repair will be done soon, but similar to minor repairs, it is complicated to schedule the job. A total roof repair requires coordinating the job with other major projects on campus, as well as other repairs in the HER house itself, Riley said.

Other students who have lived in Bay State Road brownstones say the living conditions were lackluster. Nina Taylor-Dunn, a junior in the College of Arts and Sciences, said the residences do not receive much upkeep from BU.

“I didn’t like it very much,” Taylor-Dunn said. “There was very little insulation and it was just kind of old and was not taken care of as well.”

Samantha Lum, a junior in CAS, enjoys living in her brownstone.

“I feel like my building has been like really clean and well maintained,” Lum said. “I don’t have any issues.”


Alex LaSalvia and Victoria Bond contributed to the reporting of this article.

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