Patterson Hall East flooding incidents yet to be solved


Tim Dodge

The entrance to Patterson Hall East. (Tim Dodge | Northern Star)

By Colin Kempsell

After a year of bursting pipes and collapsed ceilings, Patterson Hall has yet to see a permanent fix for its leaky fire suppression system, leaving some residents to question what will come next.

In 2022, Patterson Hall East saw at least three separate incidents of major flooding in the dorms. One was believed to have been the fault of a frozen coil. The cause of flooding in October and December was due to the rupture of PVC piping.

“We know what happened, but why it happened is baffling us for the moment,” said John Heckmann, associate vice president for Facilities Management and Campus Services.

Heckmann said that the university is currently seeking the assistance of a firm to investigate the issue – the choice of firm has yet to be decided. For the time being, Patterson Hall East remains only temporarily fixed.

Heckmann said residents who were affected by flooding in the past were told to evacuate their rooms while university officials assessed the damage. Depending on the severity of the flooding, some residents were moved to temporary locations, including Patterson Hall West and the Hotel at Holmes.

“I think more than anything it’s stressful,” said first-year public law major Mildred Hernandez-Garcia, a resident of Patterson Hall East affected by the flooding. “It was really frustrating and kind of depressing.”

Hernandez-Garcia said the flooding happening during finals week created extra stress, adding to the uncertainty of not knowing when she could return to her room.

“The university and outside contractors are working diligently to find and correct any issues that may have caused these problems so that our students will not have to endure further inconveniences,” said Clint-Michael Reneau, vice president for Student Affairs.

While the university attempts to more permanently resolve the issue, some students wish the university was doing more in the present.

“Ideally I’d like to see the school figure out why this is happening and fix the issue,” said Stormy Kara, a senior communications and sociology major and resident of Patterson Hall East, unaffected by flooding. “In the meantime, I’d like to see better communication, maybe saying a plan for what to do if this happens again.”

Now, some residents in Patterson Hall West are beginning to grow weary that they will be affected by flooding.

“I definitely worry that it could happen at any moment,” said first-year business management major Jessica Olson, a resident of Patterson Hall West. “Now I’m thinking for next year, ‘What floor do I live on? Do I live in West? East? What side do I stay on, and what floor?’”

Patterson Hall West has yet to see any bursting pipes, even though the building is structurally identical to its eastern twin.

“It’s very odd that it’s only happened in the East portion of Patterson Hall, and it’s very odd that we haven’t seen this happen until recently,” Heckmann said.

Patterson Hall was built in 2012. It is NIU’s newest residence hall and sports the highest price tag compared to others at $7,108 per semester, according to the university’s housing website.