North Hall Gets Lit

Imagine courtesy of Ursinus College

Ashley Webster (

Around 3 pm on October 24th, the oven in the communal kitchen of the North/Richter dormitory caught on fire. According to Residence Life Assistant, Ashly Chavez ‘22, a student was using the oven and their food caught on fire. A charred aluminum pan, which is oven safe, was found by the burnt oven, so the food was most likely left in the oven for too long. The Collegeville Fire Department responded to the emergency as all students were asked to evacuate the dorm. Three fire trucks arrived as students waited on the lawn for 30-45 minutes. Students on the lawn seemed curious about what was going on, according to Carolyn Muench ’23.

After a certain amount of time outside, some students tried to reenter the building to retrieve their stuff. Muench described the building as smelling “like a giant campfire.” She re-entered the building to get some schoolwork, as she had returned from a run as the building was being evacuated. The fire marshall yelled at students for trying to go back into the building during the emergency. Campus safety also came by and told students that they should not be in the building.

The burnt oven with a charred aluminum was left outside the back door of Richter Hall, perhaps to cool down. The oven has since been replaced with a new one.

It seems that the communal kitchen was problematic prior to the incident. One student who lives in Richter reported an unwashed pot that wafted an odor similar to that of “toxic waste.” A note was left asking whoever was responsible for the mess to clean it up as soon as possible. It was taken care of after a few days without knowledge of who left the pot. 

Another concern expressed by students is the condition of the communal refrigerator. Food from summer residents, and potentially even earlier, was still in there as of this past week. The kitchen seemed to be “messy and crowded with things from students prior to the school year,” according to a resident who would like to remain anonymous. But the refrigerator was particularly problematic. This seems to be a consistent trend across campus, as a communal refrigerator in Olin was found to have ice cream that had expired in 2018. This suggests that the ice cream had been in the freezer since the senior who found the ice cream was a freshman. Although a sign posted in this area specifically states that it is not cleaned on a regular basis, this issue can only be neglected to a certain point.

According to Chavez, it is the responsibility of RAs to “note the condition of the kitchen everyday,” but cleanliness as a whole is a “community responsibility.” Cleaning staff should not be responsible for students’ old food, but it seems nearly impossible to hold every student accountable. Forgotten food is inevitable. Following the incident, attention was drawn to the kitchen. Alvert Hernandez from Residence Life has the refrigerator cleaned out on Tuesday November 5 according to the GroupMe for the first floor of the dormitory.

It likely should be protocol to empty and clean all communal kitchens and refrigerators at the beginning or end of each semester or year. This conflict can make students wonder how often other communal areas are cleaned based on the condition of communal kitchen spaces.