Victims of McGuinn Hall still seek reimbursement

A flood in McGuinn Hall caused $4,000 in personal property damage for five students, and the University is uncertain whether the students will be reimbursed.

Freshmen Kristina McGee, Jeree Smith, Kathlene Jones, Lateshia Mitchell and Khepera Walker decided to seek a resolution on their own.

They took their problems to Ashleigh Bolar, the Student Government Association secretary of student welfare.

“It was overall a bad situation,” Bolar said.

The students said they still haven’t received payment or any official document detailing their reimbursements.

When McGee, a pharmacy student from Palm Beach, got out of bed Sept.1, she slipped and nearly hit the wall.

McGee, 18, and her roommate Mitchell, 18, a pre-med biology student from Fort Lauderdale, said they saw the water the night before but didn’t know where it originated.

“We thought some water had spilled,” McGee said.

They reported the water that coated the basement floor to their dorm mothers and continued their daily activities.

Smith, 18, a music education student from Fort Lauderdale, said she came to her dorm during the afternoon when she noticed water running in from under her door. Smith said she thought it was coming from the bathroom.

She began picking up shoes and other things off the floor. When Smith opened the door, she saw that the water was coming from the double doors to the left of her room. She ran and told her dorm mother.

Smith said that when they got to the basement lounge area, there was so much water that furniture was floating and the water reached their knees.

Jones, 18, an accounting student from Delano, Calif., said she was also greeted with knee-deep water when she arrived at her dorm. She hoped her belongings weren’t damaged because most of her items were purchased just a few days before the flood.

The students wanted to retrieve what they could, but University employees warned them not to enter the basement because of the danger of electrocution. The students had to stay the night with family and friends.

When the students returned the next day, many found their personal documents, printers, laptop cords, shoes and other items damaged by the flood.

The students said they were instructed to put their damaged items in the laundry room. Students said many of their damaged belongings were later stolen.

They filed insurance claims and police reports with the University, but the Florida Department of Financial Services denied their insurance claims.

The letter they received from FDFS stated: “Our understanding at this point is that the water came from a pipe which suddenly burst. If that is indeed the case, employee negligence as the cause would be highly unlikely.”

The letter also stated that the University does have liability coverage, but only for the negligence of an employee of the University.

It further explained that residents signed a housing agreement where the possibility of flooding is “disclosed up front and they accept responsibility for their belongings and understand it is up to them to provide their own insurance.”

Students said that after the flood, workers from an air conditioning repair company who mopped water out of their rooms tried to bribe them.

Walker, 19, a business administration student from Chicago, said one of the workers began telling them, “If anybody asks you, tell them that you’re happy and we did a good job.”

Jones said that an air conditioning worker also said that he would take her to Wal-Mart to replace any items that were damaged.

McGee said the same worker offered her a personal check.

A representative of the University’s risk management department said the contractors were not University employees.

A representative of the risk management department said they are working with the vendors responsible for the water damage to help the students get their claim resolved.

Bolar advises students to read contracts before signing. She said just because a dorm is not an apartment, it doesn’t mean that it is not rental property.

“The moral of the story is, you need to have renter’s insurance,” Bolar said.

Contact Carla Jones at