Living in a windowless room

Students call them the “dungeon rooms” while housing call them “Suite Modified Singles”
Video by Ian Thompson.

HSU student Gannon Moore was excited to have his own room for the first time, but his excitement didn’t last long. It died out when he saw his assigned windowless bedroom for the first time.

“As soon as I got there a lot of those hopes were dashed, everything was dashed,” Moore said.

In the summer of 2016, HSU housing and residence life decided to convert 23 kitchens in Juniper and Laurel at Creekview into bedrooms with no windows to accommodate more student housing.

The Director of Housing and Residence Life Stephen St. Onge said these rooms were built because of the urgent need for housing. He said that housing is not trying to capitalize on it, but only trying to combat the issue of homelessness.

Freya Mitchell is an international exchange student from the United Kingdom. She also was assigned a similar bedroom with no windows. Freya Mitchell was disheartened when she arrived this past August to her windowless assigned room after a long flight from the UK.

“Is this what I came for? Why have I flown all this way to this tiny room? It’s a bit claustrophobic and you can’t have any natural air flow in it,” Freya said

David Mitchell is Freya’s father and is an architect from the UK. He said he was shocked to know that there are dorm bedrooms with no windows.

“We [his family] were surprised that they even have that sort of room, to be honest,” David Mitchell said. “We’ve paid for a legitimate room and what we’re getting is a storeroom.”

He said windowless bedrooms like the ones in Creekview are illegal in the UK. In his opinion, those rooms shouldn’t have been used as bedrooms.

As an architect, David Mitchell thinks that there are several fundamentals that are wrong with such bedrooms, one of which is the lack of natural daylight and natural air flow.

“I don’t think that room should be used as a bedroom,” David Mitchell said. “I think their [HSU housing] decision to convert that room is driven by money. I think it’s driven by profit.”

Freya’s mom, Michelle Mitchell, also doesn’t think it’s acceptable to have a room without a window.

“Our friends would say ‘how’s Freya getting on in America?’ and we say she’s living in a cupboard,” Michelle Mitchell said. “Everybody we spoke to about it was horrified.”

After several efforts have been made by Freya, her family, and the HSU’s international students office, Freya was assigned a different room with windows.

“I didn’t wanna stay in that room it was horrible,” Freya said. “I just can’t believe that they’ve got rooms like that.”

According to the international residential code, bedrooms are required to have windows or a second door for air ventilation, natural light and to be used as an escape in case of an emergency. Though the 23 converted bedrooms in Juniper and Laurel at Creekview don’t have a window, they have another exit door that leads to the outside.

Patricia Rivera is another student who moved into Mitchell’s windowless room after she moved out. Rivera lives right across the hallway from Moore and both of them agree that their small converted windowless bedrooms lack proper ventilation and have no natural light.

“It gets really stuffy within like five minutes,” Rivera said. “It’s constantly dark no matter what’s in there.”

When the heat is turned on in Moore’s suite, his room gets very hot compared to other rooms in the suite due to the insufficient ventilation.

“My room gets boiling hot because there’s no ventilation,” Moore said. “All the heat from the vent gets into the room and just sit it has nowhere to dissipate to.”

Moore used to open the door that leads to the outside to get some fresh air, but he can’t prop the door open anymore.

“I can’t leave my door open because the RAs say ‘you gotta close your door, you can’t leave your door open’ even if I’m in the room.” Moore said.

Moore said he’ll sometimes wake up sweating from his overheated room.

“When I’m overheating at night, I have to open my door, go walk out into the hallway and just stand there,” he said. “I stand there sometimes in my boxers because I’m freaking overheating and I have nothing else to do.”

Both Mitchell and Moore agree that living in a room like this affected their mental health. Moore noticed that he started to get frustrated easier than ever before.

“I started getting angrier and it’s honestly because I’m not seeing any natural light,” he said. “It’s like I’m in solitary confinement.”

Before Mitchell was relocated and during the time she was in one of the windowless bedrooms, she tried to stay away from her room as much as possible.

“I didn’t spend much time in the room really I stayed out as much as I could,” Mitchell said. “You’re going to go crazy if you stay there.”

J.D. Andreas is another student also currently living in one of the converted windowless bedrooms. He said he wakes up not knowing what time it is because it’s always dark in his room.

“You wake up, you don’t know if it’s midnight, you don’t know if it’s 3 p.m. because it’s just pitch black in there,” Andreas said.

Andreas and his suitemates found humor in what they called “messed up things.”

“My roommates and I were always like ‘yo I’m going to take a nap in J.D’s room. I don’t know if it’ll be three hours or 18,’” Andreas said.

Moore’s girlfriend, Hannah Klein, calls him Harry Potter because he lives in a “cupboard,” she said. He said his windowless room also became an inside joke for him and his friends.

“Anytime anybody complains about their room,” Moore said. “We tell them at least you have a window, at least you don’t have the dungeon room.”

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