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Rutgers students spend night on cots as power outage continues

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About 2,000 cots were set up for students in the recreation centers to sleep in overnight. Executive Vice President for Strategic Planning and Operations Antonio Calcado said this number is based on previous experiences evacuating students from the two campuses. There are roughly 3,200 students being evacuated in total. – Photo by Dimitri Rodriguez

All 3,200 students living on the Cook and Douglass campuses this semester were relocated Wednesday night as Rutgers continued to suffer from a power outage.

Rutgers administrators will meet at 5 a.m. to decide whether to reopen the campuses on Thursday, said Executive Vice President for Strategic Planning and Operations Antonio Calcado. University Facilities and Capital Planning will work through the night to resolve the power issue.

"We’ve identified what we think is the root cause ... a lot of the campus is up and running (but) a lot of the equipment has to reset and we need to make sure we don’t drop out again," he said. "I’m cautiously confident, given what we’ve been through the last 36 hours."

Some of the buildings may have power sporadically as systems are tested, he said. While these buildings' lights may be on, it is still unsafe to have students live in them.

The emergency lights that normally illuminate buildings without electricity are designed to help people evacuate, but do not have the battery capacity to stay on for extended periods of time, he said. 

The outage has impacted students trying to submit homework online or use facilities in their buildings.

Rutgers Business School first-year student Sreenija Nalla said she was unable to complete her homework on Tuesday night and Wednesday morning.

"The bathrooms are dark, so I take a flashlight in with me,” she said. “But I can’t shower there, so I have to visit my friends at different campuses to do so."

She also said the dining halls were unable to cook food, so primarily salads were served.

Elizabeth Fogarty, a School of Communication and Information sophomore, said she was also unable to access her class materials. Two of her classes have online components, while several more use online textbooks.

"I had a class in Hickman Hall this morning, (there was) no power on Cook campus and in the apartments, (Neilson) Dining Hall was out and we still had class," she said. "We sat in the classroom in the dark (and) we just had discussions, (the professor) couldn’t use any PowerPoints or anything."

The Neilson Dining Hall suffered during the blackouts. David Donlon, the dining hall's manager, said they have experienced power outages before due to hurricanes, but this is the first time the power has gone out three times in a 24-hour period.

“(With this outage), we don’t have any news on how long this’ll be, so we’re erring on the side of caution and we’re going to shut down,” Donlon said. 

The dining hall would close early at 1 p.m. because they “don’t know how long the power will be out,” he said.

Neilson was not running out of food the evening of Sept. 13, and Donlon said there have “not necessarily” been any problems preparing food.

“We purchase in advance all the products, and we prepare in advance for all your meal periods,” Donlon said. “It’s just an inconvenience to students, unfortunately. We’re here for them every day and we want to take this opportunity to make sure we’re doing the right thing for them by offering services where they can get full accommodation.”

Amanda Autore, a School of Arts and Sciences senior, described her day as "crazy, unpleasant and eventful" — waking up, taking 10 minutes to get ready and then having the power go out. When the power goes out in her residence hall, she said an alarm sounds off, meaning "a lovely screech was going off all day."

Autore planned to go to the Livingston Recreation Center for temporary shelter, saying it was "not exactly what (she's) paying for." She was also concerned about the food spoiling in her fridge. 

Tuesday night, Austore said Rutgers police were condoning students propping doors open because swipe access into the residence hall was not working. Resident assistants informed Autore to pack for a minimum of two days, but to plan for a week without power in order to be safe. 

She said she expects a refund from the school for the inconveniences. 

"I'm paying way too much for this. To live on a cot with 300 other students in a recreation center is just unacceptable for the amount of money we're paying for housing," she said. "It's ridiculous."

Calcado said it is too early to determine what sort of refund students might get.

"(Of) primary importance is the safety of our students and our staff, and then the comfort of our students," he said. "(This) has been an inconvenience and we recognize that and we hope we’re taking care of this. We hope we could have had a resolution sooner and we'll continue to work on that."

Dan Morrison, executive director of residence life, said generators will not solve the issue.

“The way the system is set up, it’s not a generator issue. The bottom line is it’s not about putting more power in because the same thing could continue to happen. They’re trying to isolate why it’s happening to find a solution." has updates on the power outage available for students. 

Avalon Zoppo is the managing editor of The Daily Targum. She is a School of Arts and Sciences junior majoring in political science. Follow her on Twitter @AvalonZoppo for more stories.

Nikhilesh De is the news editor of The Daily Targum. He is a School of Engineering senior. Follow him on Twitter @nikhileshde for more.

Bushra Hasan is a School of Arts and Sciences sophomore majoring in cell biology and neuroscience. She is a staff writer for The Daily Targum. Follow her on Twitter @Hasanabanana for more.

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