The Daily Gamecock

Column: The Rowan, other off-campus student apartment complexes need to be held accountable

Closeup of dirt and oil residue found underneath a stovetop in an apartment of the Rowan. 

Apartment complexes like The Rowan need to be held accountable for the dirty apartments and lack of help to provide a clean, livable space for students.

After freshman year, most USC students live at an off-campus student apartment or house. When residents at The Rowan, an apartment complex located on Southern Drive, walked into their supposedly move-in-ready apartments in August, they were met with an unlivable situation. 

"When I walked in, I was just in disbelief of how gross it was and disgusting," Ashlee Gainey, a fourth-year mass communications student and resident at The Rowan, said. "I just couldn't believe that they expected me to live there." 

<p>Closeup of the oil and dirt residue left underneath a stovetop in an apartment at the Rowan apartment complex.</p>
Closeup of the oil and dirt residue left underneath a stovetop in an apartment at the Rowan apartment complex.

The apartment was in complete disarray with almost nothing cleaned. There were kitchen drawers filled with maggots and roaches and dog feces found in a closet, according to Gainey.  

It's utterly unacceptable for students to be allowed to move into this. Why The Rowan thought this apartment was ready is still a question. It's also unknown if these apartments were ever looked at prior to move-in and if any cleaning was done. 

Students are paying up to $865 per person each month for a two-bed two-bath and $699 for a four-bed, four-bath, according to The Rowan's website. Residents at least deserve a clean place to live. 

Gainey and her roommates spent the day cleaning the apartment and trying their best to work with The Rowan. 

"I've been in the office every day since move in," Gainey said. "I understand that they're not the ones that have power or anything, but at the same time, the numbers that they're giving me, I'm not able to talk to anyone because they're not picking up their phone. I've left voice messages, nobody's calling me back. So, no help at all."

Gainey and two of her roommates were moved from their four-bed, four-bath to a three-bed, three-bath on Aug. 8. Paying the original rate, saving $9. 

It's The Rowan's responsibility to respond in a timely manner, especially in a situation where residents like Gainey couldn't move into their rooms because she was waiting on her carpet to be replaced. Gainey is not the only one upset with The Rowan. 

"They're definitely taking advantage of these kids," a fourth-year public health student and a first-time resident of The Rowan, who asked to remain anonymous, said. "I'm basically a child to them, which annoys the crap out of me." 

The resident is trying to get out of her lease, but The Rowan won't allow her to. 

One resident, Katie Smith, a third-year pre-law and political science student walked into her apartment after touring the place, but like Gainey was completely shocked walking in. 

"As soon as I walked down the stairs, I noticed that it smelled like marijuana and cigarettes really bad and that the stairs were really dirty and had a bunch of really weird stains on it," Smith said. "There was definitely mold and someone had spilled some kind of liquid all over (the carpet.)"

Smith said she is worried about not having the funds to get an apartment that won't have some of those issues. 

"It makes it seem like college is only meant for wealthy people," Smith said. "That's not how it should be."  

The Rowan personally hasn't released a statement but the parent company, Campus Advantage, released a similar statement to news outlets that have reached out. 

"We regret the inconveniences that have been caused on what should be an exciting experience for our residents, families, and guests," Dan Oltersdorf, the chief people officer at Campus Advantage, said in an email on Aug. 22. "Anytime we fail to deliver the experience our customers expect, we strive to acknowledge it and make it right."

The Daily Gamecock attempted to reach out for a comment from The Rowan but was referred to Campus Advantage. 

But because residents like Gainey have yet to see action, The Rowan and Campus Advantage need to stick to their promises and at least provide residents that are unhappy with their living situation with a new place to live that is at most clean or let them out of their lease.

When situations like this occur it's important to read over your lease before signing or have someone with legal expertise read over it. 

"My advice would be to just read through your lease," Gainey said. "Read every page, that's super important."

USC offers support to students living off campus through the Department of Student Life. Students can request legal help from the South Carolina Legal Services to help with issues like Landlord-tenant, housing, consumer protection, probate law, domestic relations and employment law. 

The Rowan isn't the only complex residents are unhappy with. Complexes like Alight Columbia, Empire Columbia and Red Point all have lower than a 3-star rating on Google. It's not fair to students who don't have the option to live on campus to be stuck with these options.  

The Rowan and other complexes need to be held accountable and should at least provide a livable, clean and safe environment for students. 

The management and workers need to put their residents first and work with them to not continue this broken line of communication that seems to occur. Living with roaches and mold shouldn't be the expectation for students. Things off-campus need to change.