The walls start to show signs of age in the O’Keefe House basement. PHOTO: LINDSAY BOECKL

O’Keefe showing signs of age

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After numerous tweets about issues in O’Keefe House, students speak out about ongoing problems in Ryerson’s oldest residence building. News Editor Rebecca Burton reports

Twitter was abuzz over the past week as students used the social media site to complain about housing problems on campus.

For the 32 residents inside the aging O’Keefe House residence, the problems ranged from garbage pickup to heating.

The twitter handle ‘@okeefebrewer,’ run by second-year journalism student Vibhu Gariola, who is now in his second year of living in O’Keefe, started complaining about garbage piling up as far back as Sept. 26. Gariola says he thinks maintenance has missed their regular garbage pick-up at least one to two times per month.

Chad Nuttall, manager of student housing services, says he thinks a problem like this is due to students dumping their garbage in the main common areas on a Friday night, as maintenance doesn’t pick up on weekends. But Gariola added the whole building was lacking garbage cans, which forces students to dump everything into one communal bin. Even recycling has failed throughout the house this year, he said.

The last major renovations to the building were done in 2004. First year O’Keefe resident Dillon Li said this year they had talked about fixing the balcony. Since he started living there a month ago, the urinal has broken in the first floor washroom they barely use, causing a stink in the house, plus one room had a minor case of bed bugs.

Li also complained that maintenance staff were “rude” and he was once walked in on three times during the same shower,

Gariola said they have also experienced pest problems but he has noticed a bug zapper in the downstairs kitchen. A few floods have also occurred during his time there.

With fees ranging from $4,416.34 for a double room or $4,254.34 for a triple room, the O’Keefe House offers the lowest residence fees on campus and, for some students, was their only reasonable option.

“It was the only choice I had to live here. It was the cheapest,” said Li.

Nuttall said one of the major problems is that students don’t speak up.

“I ask students ‘did you put in a work order?’ Nine out of 10 times the answer is no,” he said. “We’re only going to fix things we’re made aware of.”

Gariola, who has since filed work orders for some of the complaints he made, agrees. “You can choose to be chill about it or you say something about it,” he said.

The building itself was built around 1875 making it one of the oldest buildings on campus. President Sheldon Levy said he would imagine it has some sort of heritage designation, so there has not yet been a question of changing the building’s usage.

“Whether or not we should [change it] might be a legitimate question,” he said.

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