News | Student Life

Housing installs window stops in university dorms after concerned parents reach out

  • WINDOW STOPS | Sophie Park, CC '16, looks out her window that recently received a window stop to enhance safety for upper-level floors in residence halls.

When Sophie Park, CC ’16, first arrived on campus in the fall, she and her roommate were taken aback to find a bed placed adjacent to a window on an upper floor.

“My bed is right there and somebody could easily fall out—it’s dangerous,” she said.

Now, Park and her roommate can rest easy due to the window stops that University Housing has begun installing in residence halls, following concerns voiced by parents and students about the safety of residence-hall windows.

The issue came to the fore after former Columbia student Martha Corey-Ochoa fell to her death from a 14th-floor window in John Jay Hall during this year’s New Student Orientation Program, when many first-years had just arrived on campus. Corey-Ochoa’s death was ruled a suicide two days later.

One parent, who asked not to be named because her daughter did not know that she had been communicating with administrators, reached out to Dean of Student Affairs Kevin Shollenberger following Corey-Ochoa’s tragic death.

The configuration in her daughter’s single in John Jay required the bed to be placed against the window, and she worried for her safety.

“As a safety-conscious parent, it immediately appeared to me that these windows were hazardous to the room occupants and passersby outside,” she said in an email. “Sadly, my initial fears were confirmed when I learned of Martha’s death from a similar window in the same dorm.”

In December, Housing sent an email to students explaining that window stops would be installed “in an effort to continuously improve safety measures.”

Over the break, stops were installed in John Jay, Carman, Furnald, Hartley, and Broadway residence halls. Wallach Hall is scheduled to be completed next, and all windows in University residence halls will have window stops by Aug. 15, 2013.

Kristina Hernandez, director of Marketing and Communications for Student and Administrative Services, said that “There was much discussion between the student and parent community highlighting the need” for the window stops.

According to Hernandez, the stops were installed using permanent screws that allow the windows to open about 20 inches in total between the upper and lower panes. It would effectively prevent a person from falling out of the window.

But some students raised doubts about the installation’s effectiveness.

“Facilities put in a considerable effort just to get the window stops installed, but students began taking them out as soon as break was over,” Aidan Mehigan, CC ’16, said. “Over the summer, Facilities will presumably have to go back through the rooms to reinstall missing stops.”

While Mehigan felt that stops would be comforting to people on upper floors who are afraid of heights, he said that he is concerned about how the window stops would prevent the air from circulating in the warmer months.

“Since installation, a couple students have complained about the limitation,” Hernandez said. “But overall the student response to Housing thus far has been understanding and supportive of the measure.”

While Housing maintained that the installation was an independent safety initiative, students said that actions to ensure their physical safety are a small part of the larger issues of suicide prevention and mental health.

“It was nice to see they were making some kind of gesture, but if suicide prevention is what they’re trying to get at, there are probably better, more direct ways to target the heart of the problem,” Park said.

Mehigan agreed and said that the effort should be expanded to include Counseling and Psychological Services, which was not directly involved in the installation of the window stops.

“A society-wide shift in perception of mental health has to start somewhere,” Mehigan said, “And it will need many organizations to drive it along—CPS must play a part.”

shayna.orens@columbiaspectator.com

A previous version of this article incorrectly identified Aidan Mehigan as Aiden Megihan. Spectator regrets the error.

Comments

Plain text

  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
Your username will not be displayed if checked
CAPTCHA
This question is for testing whether or not you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.
Image CAPTCHA
Enter the characters shown in the image.
Anonymous posted on

20 inches? My window opens about 2 inches.

+1
0
-1
anon posted on

Yeah, you look about two inches.

+1
0
-1
Anonymous posted on

" the windows to open about 20 inches in total between the upper and lower panes" This is simply bad writing. Part of the reason why people don't like spec is that you guys too easily accept the first official answer, and then you are "respectful" in copying it.

+1
-1
-1
Anonymous posted on

....wuh?

+1
+4
-1
Anonymous posted on

Columbia University administrators are stupid and have no integrity.

+1
-1
-1
Anonymous posted on

His name is Aidan, yo. Not Aiden.

+1
-2
-1
ColumbiaSpectator posted on

Thanks—we've corrected above.

+1
+4
-1
Anonymous posted on

Two problems with this article. First, Wallach, Hartley, and Furnald aren't "First-year dorms" like the headline says. Second, Wallach is already done.

+1
0
-1
anon posted on

The article did not say they were first year dorms. It purely mentioned the buildings where the stops are to be installed. My guess is they are to be installed on all high rise dorms. This is why Columbia needed access to the dorms over the break.

+1
-2
-1
Anonymous posted on

Because if there's one thing that the future leaders of the world need, it's the kind of extreme sheltering that Columbia administrators would never have stood for in their own time. Down with windows and sharp objects! Go CPS!

+1
+1
-1
Matthew Sheridan posted on

"There was much discussion between the student and parent community highlighting the need”

“But overall the student response to Housing thus far has been understanding and supportive of the measure.”

I would say both of these quotes are hardly true. Perhaps there was much discussion between certain students and parents highlighting the need, but not as much as there should have been. Can't say this is more than rumor, but I heard that the Student Council and Housing were suppose to have some sort of town hall or meeting to give open feedback on the issue of window stops, and the meeting never happened.

As for the student response, I can tell you the first thing that went through everyone's head upon hearing of the window stops is "how the hell do I get these things off" and "this is unnecessary, stop treating us like little kids". The fact that John Jay has existed since 1927 (and I'm sure window stop technology has existed since then) and the need to put windows stops hasn't come up till now shows that it hasn't been necessary for nearly 100 years; I don't think that students are suddenly in danger of hurting themselves just now. While yes, Columbia is slow to making necessary changes (like replacing elevators), window stops are something that could have been done a LONG time ago. This is simply the result of a few parents freakin out, not a sudden new danger.

I will admit, when I first moved into my walkthrough double, the bed was next to the window, it made me a bit uneasy, and I moved the bed. Perhaps a nice thing to do is remind people of common sense; look both ways before you cross the street, don't run across the tracks on the subway, don't leave the window wide open when you sleep if your bed must be next to the window.

Lets face it, If I wanted to commit suicide, I could do it a number of ways; walking in front of the subway, jumping off the ramps in Lerner, hanging myself with various objects, and the list goes on. Yet I don't see anyway caging the ramps, making guards for the subway/trains, or banning belts, cords, and bedsheets. The root of the issue is mental health.

What I believe would have been a reasonable response to this (if you haven't noticed by now, I REALLY like to keep my window open, or lean out a bit to get a refreshing view of amsterdam ave) is

a) give the students the OPTION for window stops, requiring the completion of a simple form and specifying a time in which they would like facilities to come to their room

and to address the root of the issue, which is mental health

b) require a mandatory CPS appointment during NSOP much like we are required to have an advising appointment to check to make sure our classes are on track. If the student doesn't like it, they used 20 minutes of their time. If they do, then they now have no initial barrier to making use of a resource that can greatly help out there time at Columbia. In my opinion, Mental Health > Degree Completion, and CPS is a place that I've been reluctant to use even when I am feeling down. Individual appointments can address the crazyness that most first years go through and be the specialized support that an RA with 40 students or OL with 10 students can't address.

+1
-1
-1
Anonymous posted on

I really love that housing claims to have communicated with students and responded to student feedback. Both are the opposite of the truth: look at all the comments on this article. Instead, housing masked student feedback, cancelled a council appearance last minute, did zero outreach, and gave itself a pat on the back for solving a non-existent problem while creating a new one. As a firm believer and promoter of increased mental health on campus, I am embarrassed that we our dishonoring Martha's intentional suicide with window stops, while CPS continues to be short-staffed and purposely does not advertise its services as a result. Next, we should combat the cold weather by encouraging pollution / global warming.

+1
+1
-1
Anonymous posted on

barnard already has these in all their dorms--might've been useful to talk to someone in housing over there

+1
0
-1