Don’t be afraid to speak up!

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Our living accommodations are very similar to the dorms at our universities back home. Everyone must share a communal kitchen and bathroom. In our communal kitchen, we have the basics: stove, sink, refrigerators, dining table, and chairs. However, over time we have noticed that the chairs in the kitchen have been broken and no one has taken responsibility for them. Therefore, the housing director decided to hold a meeting with our floor to get to the bottom of it.

My floor was very unhappy about this meeting not because we did not want to discuss the chairs but because the chairs was not a big problem compared to what was going on on our floor. Our kitchen has been infested by mice. Every single time I go to the kitchen at night I see a mouse and they run amongst our dishes. This is a serious issue. I have written many notes to the front desk, others have written emails, but we have not gotten any updates on what is being done. In addition, there have been many power outages in the kitchen. Many students had to throw away their food because it has become spoiled. It is always the same routine, we file a complaint and we would do not get any solutions.

My roommates and I were upset. However, we were also afraid because we had heard that they charged the floor above us $300 for breaking chairs and since we are all students no one wants to pay for that. The meeting was scheduled and we all arrived. It was awkward because no one really wanted to give excuses because we would be blamed for all the chairs but it really bothered me that we were holding a meeting for chairs. I decided I would speak for my floor and I spoke up.

I told the director that it was not right that we were holding a meeting for the chairs and not the mice or the power outage. I explained how we felt neglected because no one cared about our well being, instead furniture was seen to be more important than us. The director stated that things were being done about the power outage and mice. However, I said we did not know that they failed to communicate with us so we were unaware of all of this. It was their job to keep us safe and they were not effectively communicating that to us. He apologized for the miscommunication and agreed that it was not right for us to hold a meeting about chairs but not about anything else. After I spoke up, others began chiming in. I began the discussion and I was the voice of our floor. For the first time, I was able to be a leader here and I am so glad I did it. I live in the international dorm, therefore my floor is very diverse. Although we all come from different places we have created a close bond and I am glad I was able to do something for all of us.

In the end, the director apologized to all of us and said we did not have to pay for the chairs but to be more careful with the new ones. He said for now on he will update us with emails and gave everyone his business card. My name is Allyson Vasquez and I made a difference.