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Quadrangle, I demand a moat!

Jacob Siegel | Op-Ed Submission

At 9:15 a.m. this Saturday, I heard a loud drilling at my back door. I rolled into the kitchen in my underwear, where I saw an array of carpentry tools spread out on a tarp covering my countertop. What was going on?

Then I remembered: several weeks ago, I had seen signs posted on my apartment door from Quadrangle Housing Company, my building’s housing management company, announcing the replacement of my beautiful and historic wooden back door with a new, steel-framed, “high-security” door. Quadrangle Housing Company wants to offer security to its residents. I understand and appreciate that. But they never asked me how best to meet my needs. They never consulted with anyone in my building at all. I feel powerless, weak, without a voice, in my own home. Who is Quadrangle trying to protect? Me. Then hear my voice. Here it is.

First, I demand a 25-foot wall.

Does Quadrangle think that steel doors can protect me? We live in the St. Louis metropolitan area! We’ve won awards for the most dangerous city in the country. Criminals from North St. Louis, East St. Louis and South City are all after us, and the only way to truly protect ourselves is with a high-security barrier. Therefore, I demand an immediate installation of a 25-foot wall around the perimeter of the Co-op property.

Still, I don’t feel safe. If someone can break through my old wooden door, the one Quadrangle saw fit to replace, then surely such a person can easily break through my windows. Oh, those windows! Even though Quadrangle has installed new security locks on the windows, any thief with a gun could shoot through without losing a drop of sweat. I demand that Quadrangle replace all of my windows with blocks of solid steel.

I realize how important sunlight is for health. We humans thrive with sunlight, psychologists agree. My new “high-security” steel door cuts the sunlight in my kitchen to one five-hundredth of what I’m used to. This will cause unanticipated health problems that Quadrangle never bothered to run by me. But had they done so, they would have found that I don’t care about sunlight; I really only feel safe when I have no natural light at all in my apartment, just blocks of metal.

The way to protect ourselves from violence is by creating fences. We live in a violent, unjust city. The climate of violence in places like North St. Louis arose directly because of the violence we have inflicted through the racism and classism of the 1960s, ’70s, ’80s and even ’90s continuing through today, and we must protect ourselves now from the consequences of our foreparents’ actions.

Is it true, as Martin Luther King, Jr., preached, that we will only ever truly be safe when we acknowledge our duty toward the violence of our past? Only when we learn to accept our share of responsibility for the system that created such violence? Only when we work to promote non-violence and love instead?

No. For my sake, Quadrangle, give me a steel door with a peephole. Put me in a gated community, and have the police patrol at night. Shelter me from the violence—with a high enough wall, I can pretend it has nothing to do with me! Close all the windows and shut out the light. Then I’ll feel safe. All alone, behind my steel door, shivering.

  • Last weekend Quadrangle Housing sent their subcontracted (and perhaps undocumented) workers unannounced into the apartment of a friend, whose cats may have run away if nobody had been home when the door was replaced. They also shut off the water unannounced. This was in the same neighborhood whose QH problems had been solved by Quadrangle Watch a few years ago. Neighbors compared notes, documented abuse, and sent emails to QH and student government. Why not bring this back? Who will start a Facebook group and blog? Perhaps some fearless graduating senior? Document their abuses, and take them to court. The law is on our side, not theirs.

    Relations with the CoOp have dramatically improved since one of our members won a small claims judgment against them, and since the publication of this op-ed. Now they are being very nice to us. They even promised us a shed! Why don’t all you other QH tenants demand a shed? Let them set it up right next to the moat.

    Now they say they love the CoOp, and have always loved the COop. They are no longer threatening to shut us down. That’s very nice.

    I hear from multiple witnesses that QH went ballistic when they saw the KSDK Channel 5 News story, “Students rally to save professor’s co-op house,” , and realized that we saw no need to ask their permission to talk to the Press. “But is it safe?” Safety seems to be a common pretext to curtail free speech and free association these days. What kind of community are we building? Where are the College Libertarians and the Student Worker Alliance when we need them?

    I am wondering, does this change of heart apply to me as well? Do they love me, and have they always loved me? Has Company Policy (Quadrangle and WashU) changed? If so, prove it.

    Lecturer Dr. Jerome “i lend you my name” Bauer
    –Unpaid Community Lecturer, Washington University Cooperative Network
    –Unpaid Librarian, Washington University Co-op Library

  • If you call the police in their presence they run away, and some people say this is because they hire many illegal aliens, apparently from Brazil. Who speaks Portuguese, and can ask these workers if they are being paid and treated decently?

  • a student

    Do you live in U City? You should call the police and have Quadrangle arrested for waking you up with noise.

  • Please see also: gratuitous faculty advice: let’s incorporate and be independent of quadrangle housing, and less dependent upon any university,

  • Let’s revive the Facebook group “Quadrangle Watch,” started by grad students a few years ago. This and Graduate Senate action was quite effective in curbing some well documented abuses by this company.

    Even before the publication of this op-ed (circulated in advance to the CoOp listserv), relations between the COop and QH have dramatically improved. The customer is always right, yes?

    Lecturer Dr. Jerome Bauer
    Co-Founder and Community Lecturer, WashU Cooperative Network, 2003—