by ENYA CEA-LAVIN
On Sunday, Dec. 10, 2023, Amy Jessee—the executive director of university communications— sent a campus-wide email to Mary Washington students and staff about water damage sustained from a ruptured sprinkler pipe located in the southeast side of Lee Hall. As of Jan. 8, the offices in Lee Hall have returned to their usual operations following repairs.
The incident, identified as a rupture in Jessee’s email, occurred on Friday, Dec. 8 in an unoccupied office in the Center for International Education.
“It was a heating system malfunction that set off the sprinklers in one of the offices in CIE,” said Sarah Moran, the study abroad coordinator for CIE.
As a result, gallons of water seeped through the floor and into the lower levels of Lee Hall located below, according to Moran.
To repair the damage, Moran explained, dehumidifiers were placed around the office and holes were intentionally punched in the baseboards to ensure that they were dry.
“All of the furniture had been moved centrally in each area so that they could get access to the walls, and they had huge dehumidifiers throughout the offices—throughout the whole fourth floor,” said Moran.
Due to the noise of repairs and dehumidifiers, the Talley Center switched to virtual appointments with staffing in Tyler House, and offices in the Student Services Center transitioned to online appointments with limited in-person service, according to Jessee.
CIE also transitioned to online and a few students were given an extension for their faculty-led program payments since the Cashier’s office was closed, according to Moran.
The Student Health Center’s hours of operation were unaffected, and the UMW Bookstore opened in a limited capacity on Monday, Dec. 11, since some of their sections had been affected by the water.
The closures frustrated some student employees who could not go into their respective offices for work.
Kendra White, a sophomore biomedical sciences major and one of the student aides for Mary Washington’s Financial Aid office, was directly affected since she could not work at all during the closure.
“I’m a commuter so I was going to work over winter break … that way I could have paychecks over winter break,” she said.
White continued, “When Lee flooded I think everyone at first thought it was only going to be a problem for a couple of days, and I was sure I would be able to come in at the end of the week.”
But, when Jessee’s email announced the closure of several offices, White said that she was “disappointed but not surprised.”
This recent instance of office closures as a result of water damage follows a similar case that took place in Lee Hall in Oct. 2023 when a hot water line ruptured and forced Student Health Center services to be moved online for an entire week.
Norah Walsh contributed to reporting for this article.