Students in North Court and Robins Hall dorms faced less-than-ideal living conditions upon returning to campus after winter break.

Students living in Robins Hall were told there was no heat or hot water in the building. Some residents of Robins Hall, which houses females of all class years, began checking back into the dorm as early as last Thursday, Jan. 5. With temperatures reaching 9°F and impending ice and snow in the forecast, many students rearranged their travel plans to return to campus early to avoid the bad weather.

But those low temperatures, which University Facilities officials were not expecting, strained the heating systems in Robins and left students without heat and hot water.  

“Robins still uses radiators, and when it’s too cold outside they can’t work properly,” Andrew McBride, associate vice president of university facilities, said. “This doesn’t happen very often in Richmond, but obviously this past weekend was an extreme case that we weren’t expecting.”

University officials worked to provide alternative housing options for students, opening the Whitehurst Living Room and rooms in the basement of Gray Court Monday for students who wanted a warmer place to sleep. 

Many students opted to either tough it out in the cooler temperatures or stay with a friend in another dorm.

“I chose to shower in my friend’s dorm but I slept in my own room. I just piled on blankets and wore a robe and a hat to bed,” Robins resident, freshman Sarah Shavo said.

The water in Robins did not reach the set temperature until Tuesday afternoon, but it has since been working properly and the heat and hot water have returned.

“Sunday and Monday our facilities staff worked hard to increase the steam pressure that supplies heat to Robins Hall,” Patrick Benner, newly appointed director of residence life and undergraduate student housing, said.

On the opposite side of campus, North Court, a newly renovated building that contains a mixture of offices, classrooms and dorm rooms, has been home to a myriad of issues since the start of the semester.

Fire alarms went off throughout the building on four separate occasions over a span of 12 hours Sunday night. Students stood outside in the same freezing temperatures Robins residents were sleeping in as they waited to be let back inside the building.

“Luckily, the second time it went off they let us wait inside of North, but the alarm was very loud,”  sophomore Eibhlin Villalta, a North Court resident, said.

Despite the fact that residents were allowed to move into their new rooms at the beginning of the semester, a portion of the building remains under construction, creating loud noises for residents.

“No one from the university has communicated with us about these issues, so hopefully they are in the process of being solved,” Villalta said.

One possible explanation for this is because North Court is still under warranty.  

“When a building is under warranty, it becomes the contractor’s job to deal with any issues that arise during this period,” McBride said.  

Contact reporter Jocelyn Grzeszczak at