As the first semester since the grand reopening of Hill College House comes to a close, students largely say they are satisfied with the $80 million project and all of its amenities. Still, however, there are several kinks that have yet to be sorted out.
The most prevalent issue is likely the overactive fire alarms, which Wharton freshman Nathalie Rodrigues Vaz Falcão estimates have sounded 15 times throughout the semester. Falcão said the alarms have been her least favorite part of living in Hill.
On Dec. 7, Penn Business Services and the Division of Public Safety sent an email to Hill residents acknowledging issues with the Hill fire alarm system, writing that they "appear to stem from oversensitivity of sensors."
The email emphasized that while Penn works to resolve the issues, students should still evacuate following alarms.
Doug Berger, the executive director for Business Services, added that these sensitive smoke detectors were originally placed in unusual spaces, such as directly above a toaster and right outside a pizza oven.
Falcão said she originally ranked Hill at the bottom of her preference list for housing, but what put Hill on her radar at all were the renovations. Now that she has lived in Hill for about three months, Falcão said she enjoys the amenities Hill offers, especially the gym and study lounge.
Wharton freshman Amanda Lewis also ranked Hill at the bottom of her housing preferences, but at that time she did not know much about the remodeling.
She says she really enjoys the sense of community that Hill offers through its many common areas and study lounges. “You can’t leave the building without seeing someone you know,” Lewis said of Hill’s central atrium.
Although Penn has not yet conducted a student satisfaction survey for Hill residents, Berger said Hill "has always had a strong social community,” adding that he expects the upcoming surveys to show that that is still the case.
Lewis also said she enjoys the privacy provided by the new gender-neutral bathrooms. The bathrooms are now single rooms instead of stalls.
While each individual college house determines whether or not its bathrooms will be gender-neutral, the issue of available gender-neutral bathrooms has been pressing for nonresidential buildings as well. In September, University Architect David Hollenberg pointed to Hill's gender-neutral bathrooms as a model he would like to adopt for nonresidential buildings in the future.
Engineering freshman Kathie Jin appreciates the “social vibe” of Hill, as well as the dining hall, although she said she gets tired of eating the same foods. Lewis also stated that there is a lack of variation, but that the food in Hill is better than in other dining halls, so people from other college houses come to Hill to eat.
Berger said Penn is working on introducing a new rotation of food in Hill to begin in the spring semester.
One of the most criticized aspects of Hill before its renovation was its lack of air conditioning. However, the new A/C system was not what all residents were expecting.
“I’m not a huge fan of it,” said Falcão of the A/C, adding that during the summer it could get really cold and now, during the winter, after Hill has turned off the A/C and turned on heating, it can get really warm.
“We’re forced to open up a window in the middle of November because it’s too hot in our room," Falcão said.
Berger said that while he hasn’t heard complaints about the A/C system in Hill, there were some adjustment issues on certain floors after the heat was turned on.
Jin, like Falcão and Lewis, had also originally ranked Hill low on her housing preferences. But if she were to do it again, she now says that “Hill would be at the top” of her list.
“I’m telling [friends applying to Penn] to live in Hill,” she added.
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