Since Wednesday, Nov. 1, Prosser’s fire alarms have gone off six times, each of which occurring at random moments throughout the day. The first two happened between 11 p.m. and 11:40 p.m. on the first. The next time the alarm went off was the following day at 6:30 a.m. Exhausted by the constant sleep interruptions, the students of Prosser lugged themselves through the day, anxious and sleepy. Though this was not the end. The alarm proceeded to go off three more times during the course of the week.
While there have been emails sent from Muhlenberg Housing to Prosser residents, this doesn’t take away from the fact that the students living in Prosser have been suffering from this purge-like alarm going off when they least expect it. What’s even more frustrating is being woken up only a few hours before your alarm is supposed to go off, then struggling to fall back asleep, only to be rudely awoken by your alarm shortly after. For the rest of the day, most students in Prosser were tired and sleep deprived, more than they normally would be. It doesn’t end there. With the anxiety of not knowing when the alarm would go off again, many students found themselves on edge. Kirsten Ward ‘27 talks about this on edge feeling, saying, “I think [the alarms] cause a lot more anxious and nervousness in my body, they definitely disrupted my nervous system,” and then goes on to say she felt nervous “wondering when the alarms were going to go off again” for the rest of the day.
Research shows how sudden alarms, especially fire alarms, can cause stress and anxiety to build in its listeners. There is a study that directly tests humans on how alarms affect them mentally. In this study, participants stayed four consecutive days and nights in a sleep laboratory where they were told an alarm would go off at different sound rates and random times in the day. The results from the experiment were quite revealing, showing how the subjects’ heart rates went up each day long after they heard the alarm, specifically when these alarms woke them up at night. They suffered under stress just from this loud noise, and for the rest of the day, the researchers found that they were on edge and antsy.
Though there haven’t been any more fire alarm outbursts since Monday, Nov. 6, as thankfully fire safety vendors took the time to help resolve the issue, this should sound some figurative alarm in our heads, Prosser Hall is slowly deteriorating. While the jokes regarding Prosser are funny to make, they really aren’t far from the reality of living there. The hall, as many would agree, is in desperate need of renovation and change. The structure of the building is claustrophobic, holding many people in one building, giving no privacy. The building is almost always loud, even past quiet hours, and the smells that waft through the halls are suffocating. The lounge rooms are outdated and scare away most who live on the floor. The dryers barely work, with your clothes staying soaked until you’ve done three cycles of drying. Each room is allotted one small window that doesn’t even open. In all honesty, Prosser Hall in many ways can deter possible incoming students.
While of course it is unreasonable to imagine the entirety of Prosser being redone, it should be noted how the structural integrity of the building is affecting those who inhabit it. Possibly to your surprise, the way a building is set up has an immediate effect on one’s mental wellbeing. Poor-quality housing has been found to increase psychological distress, research has shown. Socially supportive relationships and the restoration from stress and fatigue all can be impacted by properties of the environment around you. When there are things like residential crowding and a loud noise source, psychological distress rises. The lack of daylight also can increase depressive symptoms. All these apply to Prosser Hall.
Gabby Zickmann ‘27 describes how Prosser makes her feel, saying quote, “[it] feels very enclosed and loud. It is always very loud. The layout of the building is very confusing.” Zickmann goes on to explain how many students’ schedules “don’t match, which makes it hard to coexist with those in your dorms” and that in terms of the noise levels you “can’t bring it up to others in your hall because it doesn’t feel like a close environment to share that.”
So what can be done? Will the battle that is living in Prosser ever end? From a personal stance, small improvements can be made to the dorm that could lead to significant opinion changes regarding the building. Perhaps updating the lounge rooms by adding some decent, clean furniture could create a difference and actually make Prosser the community it was intended to be. At least making the basement lounge room a bit more presentable could invite students to spend more time there, bonding with each other and developing community driven relationships. Maybe there can be updates to the actual rooms themselves, like a replacement of floor or ceiling tiles. Ward communicated that “offering bigger rooms or more singles since the hall is already so crowded and maybe aim to be up to par with Walz Hall standard, since the building feels less conducive to studying and working compared to Walz.” While all of these things of course need time to happen, and more importantly, money, if it will help the student body, why shouldn’t it be done? You will never be able to get rid of that Prosser charm, but perhaps you can make the building more presentable, and well, livable to its students.
The possibility of Prosser ever being a “perfect” dorm is close to none, it will always be that first-year experience that will make you grateful for your own personal bathroom, but maybe it could be a little less, what many call it, “dirty Prosser.” For the benefit of Muhlenberg students, and incoming ones as well, perhaps it’s time for an update to the schools national treasure that is Prosser Hall.