By: Nate Izzo
Photo By: Brahmjot Kaur
As I walked through Shepard Hall to my morning Intro to Journalism class, everything seemed business as usual: people were talking on the benches, the elevator was too slow to wait for, and the hum of the air conditioning provided its usual ambience.
The first abnormal things I encountered as I exited the stairwell were the absence of my classmates waiting in the hall and the ajar door of my classroom. The room is constantly locked, so early arrivers like myself must wait outside until someone with a key comes to let us in and props the door open with a trash can. Pleasantly surprised that I wouldn’t encounter this issue that day, I entered the room.
The second abnormal thing that I encountered was a group of my fellow classmates surrounding a massive chunk of ceiling that had broken off and fallen to the ground. Dust and debris covered much of the surrounding floor and many of the desks. The hole in the water-damaged ceiling exposed pipes and vents. Closest to the patch of ceiling and adorned with scuff marks from the impact was an orange chair: the chair that I sit in.
In the time since I started attending City College, it has been no secret to me or to anyone that every building on this campus is in some state of disrepair.
The NAC always has at least one broken elevator, and immobile escalators are the norm. Marshak is under constant construction. The engineering building has a slanted floor. Shepard’s air conditioning makes it hard to hear the professors. Water drips from ceilings everywhere.
Prior to today, the ceiling of my Journalism classroom had two constant leaks coming from a section of ceiling with water damage and a sizable hole. When I joined the group of my classmates around the fallen ceiling, I found myself feeling shocked, amused, and confused. Shocked, because if I had been sitting in that seat who knows how much earlier, I would have been hit and possibly injured by that chunk of drywall. Amused, because the deterioration of the buildings on campus has almost become a meme in the eyes of the students. Confused, because I found myself asking why this campus has been allowed to reach such a sad state of disrepair in the first place.
As more students and the professor arrived, it became clear that the classroom was not usable, so we brainstormed where to go. Eventually we decided to head outside, where it was 70°F and sunny. We scrawled someone’s phone number on the board for any stragglers to find us and headed out. There, we were able to hold class, even with the roar of the shuttle busses and chatter of commuting students. As I sat on the ground in front of the administration building, I couldn’t help but wonder again: how did it come to this?
City College is the flagship campus of the CUNY organization. The gothic, Oxford-inspired design of Shepard and the buildings surrounding the quad represent the quality higher education that this school, often referred to as the “poor man’s Harvard,” offers to everybody who attends. However, the insides of these buildings are a stark contrast to that legacy, and they almost act as a reflection of the many issues this college faces. The school has a massive and constantly growing amount of debt. Professors, especially adjuncts, are not paid a livable wage and the classes they teach are getting more and more crowded. Tuition is rising in spite of a plan for a tuition-free CUNY.
Nobody wants to study or work under a dripping ceiling. Nobody wants to have to strain to hear their professors or yell to be heard. Nobody wants to walk up six flights of stairs to get to their classroom or office. And nobody should have to.
This campus is quickly crossing the line from unkempt to dangerous, and it is time for the administration to put serious money and effort into restoring and maintaining City College. If this fact doesn’t get into their heads soon, the ceiling will end up collapsing on them.