Chico State: Whitney Hall set to close 2023-2024 school year


Photo of Whitney Hall enterance prior to the closure. Taken by Milca Elvira Chacon Mar. 26, 2023.

Housing students for over five decades, Chico State’s Whitney Hall dorm is closing down for the 2023- 2024 academic year for various renovation projects, which will put a pinch on university housing. 

The school recently came to the conclusion of Whitney Hall’s closure due to the Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning system’s occasional leaks and signs of aging from the building’s pipes. 

Executive director of University Housing Corinne Knapp said, “It has just reached the point where it’s aged and the small repairs to keep it going are no longer feasible.” 

She worked closely with the facility department and then “joined forces and did a presentation for the campus president.”

Though recent low enrollment rates weren’t a factor in their decision to close Whitney, Knapp said it all came down to the possibility of the system going down while students lived there.

Despite the occasional repairs they’ve made in the past, Knapp is confident the building will make it through the current academic year. She also reassured the building’s HVAC system is not a cause for health concerns, despite a news report claiming otherwise. 

After Action News Now released a story regarding a possible connection between the building’s condition and the health of Whitney’s residents, Knapp shot back, “I do not agree with that at all. I was not happy with that slant that Actions News reported.” 

According to the story, some residents believe the HVAC system was at fault for their on-going standard upper-respiratory health issues, similar to seasonal colds and flus.

Knapp said first-year students live in a high-stress communal space, which might explain the impact a student’s immune system takes. 

According to Andrew Staples, Whitney had 50 HVAC related requests this year: nine mold related, four bad smell related and 37 miscellaneous. 

“Every time they put in a maintenance report, our facilities people go there, they check the filters, they check out the system,” said Knapp in regards of student’s concerns about mold and mildew. “We also involve Environmental Health and Safety, and they will look for anything concerning.”

Knapp said residents often mistake “build up of dust or spray painted protectant,” for mold.“ To this day we have not found any toxic mold in Whitney Hall.”

However, despite Knapp’s reassurance, some students still don’t agree.

Whitney Hall resident Gurpal Kaur is glad they finally decided to fix the building. Kaur feels the building is “falling apart” and has experienced issues in her dorm. 

Kaur experienced leakage in her room and feels “they’re avoiding this whole mold issue.” Since many people have pointed out their mold concern and health issues she thinks the HVAC system repair is “just their excuse.”

 Similar to Kaur’s response, resident Sarahin Santoio is also concerned about the possibility of mold and said, “I think they’re lying about that.” 

“If you look down into it, it looks dark, it looks dirty, it looks gross,” said Santoio about the air conditioning unit in her dorm.“ At first when we all did move in here, like we all kind of did catch a cold, we all did get sick. And I was like, it has to be that[HVAC system].”

One student wasn’t aware of Whitney’s future closure. Despite Jerick Hipolito recently finding out about the news, he stated he wouldn’t be surprised if something more serious was going on. Though Hipolito hasn’t experienced any issues in his dorm, he says “If there’s leakage there’s no doubt that there’s mold that follows that.”

According to the Chico State University Housing website, Whitney Hall was built in 1969 and is the tallest building north of Sacramento at nine stories high. Since Whitney houses about 560 students, many are concerned about what the school plans to do for students the following year.

“We are currently working on finding an alternative property to house students in for the 2023-2024 academic year,” Knapp said.

She is confident that the school will meet the demand and is “looking at properties that are located within very close proximity to campus.”

Besides housing students, Whitney Hall has various employees working in the building, which includes 16 resident advisors and other maintenance staff. However, Knapp doesn’t anticipate that anyone will lose their job. 

In addition to the HVAC renovation, Knapp said other things in the building will be repaired as well. Since the building is about 54-years-old, “students are looking for something that looks newer.”

There is a possibility new carpet, furniture, lighting and painting will be included in the renovation plan to give Whitney the “face lift” it is in dire need of. 

Knapp admitted that at this time she is not sure how much everything will cost, but she is sure “repairs will be in the millions of dollars.”

In response to Knapp’s comment on the additional repairs of the building, residents commented on what had to be changed. 

Santoio’s priorities to fix are the elevators and the layout of the rooms. According to him, the dorms are all different sizes.

Hipolito also agreed and said elevators had to be fixed, as well as “improvements when it comes to the bathrooms.”

Kaur’s biggest issue is the building’s windows.  

“A couple weeks ago when it was raining really hard, in my room there was literally a puddle of water around the window,” said Kaur. “With the amount of rain we get, you’d think that they would be able to fix that.” 

“There’s a lot of issues with Whitney and it’s about time that they fix it, but I don’t think that the building looking modern is really what people are looking for,” said Kaur in response to 

With all the stress this future renovation has caused, Knapp explained, “I never want to be in this position again, where we’re taking a building offline and seeking alternative housing elsewhere.”

If buildings need future renovations, Knapp is sure they will be done during a time when students are off campus to avoid closure during the school year.

Milca Elvira Chacon can be reached at [email protected].