Burst pipe in Oak Street Hall displaces over 100 students, causes disruptions to dorm life

Union demands included the creation of a lease agreement between students and UMKC.

Caleb Wilson

Nearly 150 students have been forced to relocate after a pipe burst in the Oak Street Hall dormitory over winter break.

Caused by freezing temperatures, the burst on Jan. 3 damaged all five floors of the residence hall. Students displaced by the incident were moved to the remaining rooms in Oak Street, across the road to Johnson Hall or over to the Hospital Hill Apartments based on university assignments.

The students impacted by the incident have expressed mixed opinions over the university’s handling of the situation.

One affected UMKC student who wished to remain anonymous said he felt the initial response was handled well, but he was frustrated with the university’s lack of communication and assistance for affected students.

“I recognize the university can only help so much,” he said. “But I’m an out-of-state resident. I wasn’t contacted about my potential meal plan options and I wasn’t compensated in any way.”

Another student that spoke anonymously with The Beacon shared similar feelings of frustration.

“They weren’t going to make any exceptions to cancel contracts,” she said. “They weren’t providing any reimbursement or protection plan over any of the stuff they packed up.”

Students living in the hall were first informed of the water damage via email from the university. This email also informed students that their belongings had already been packed by a professional service and moved out of the damaged dorms, according to reporting from The Beacon.

As a result of the damage, the university was forced to block off the north and west areas of the building for repairs. The disruption has already begun to cause issues for students that remain in Oak Street Hall.

Residents have been unable to reach the designated areas for garbage disposal, located in the damaged portions of the building, and waste has begun to pile up in elsewhere. 

In less than a week’s time, a mountain of trash has emerged near some of the only available garbage bins in the building. As of reporting on Monday, the situation is still yet to be resolved.

Frustrated with the university’s handling of the situation, some parents of affected students have taken to a private Facebook group for UMKC families with over 1,000 members to express their concerns.

One mother wrote that her student had a variety of lost or damaged items, and the university had been difficult to communicate with. 

“No one anywhere to help these kids figure out how to find these missing belongings,” she wrote.

Another poster claimed that her student was missing nearly $900 worth of items following the move, asking if anyone knew how to help get the items returned.

This pipe burst is just one of many water damage incidents UMKC has faced in the past several years. In Oak Street Hall alone, there have been two additional floods in the last seven years. Johnson Hall had two separate incidents of flooding last year, one of which forced nearly 80 residents to move and required roughly six months of repairs.

Massive water damage in 2018 also led to a mold outbreak in the former Oak Place Apartments, which resulted in the building being torn down in 2020 following the nearly $10 million in damages.

In response to questioning from The Beacon, Director of Residential Life Kristen Temple said that the university was still unaware of precisely how much repairs would cost and how extensive the damage was done to Oak Street Hall.

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