Boris Tsang/Sun File Photo

Students living in the houses on McGraw Places have complained of infestations and safety issues in the buildings.

October 4, 2023

McGraw Place Residents Report Security, Infrastructure Concerns

Print More

Off the beaten path of West Campus’s charming residence halls sits the neglected fraternity house-turned residence hall of McGraw Place. Located on Southwest Campus, 109 McGraw Place is the former house of the Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity, whose recognition was revoked by the University in 2019, and now houses students who most likely had bad housing timeslots or pure bad luck.

122 and 118 McGraw Place were also residence halls until this fall, when they reverted back into fraternity houses for Sigma Alpha Epsilon — which returned to Cornell last year after a decade-long suspension — and Phi Gamma Delta — of which the University withdrew recognition for two years, starting in 2020 — respectively. Former and current residents across all McGraw halls said they have experienced a lack of communication, care and responsiveness to security and infrastructure issues.

Marco Xerri ’26, a current resident of 109 McGraw Place, chose to live in McGraw as a last resort when his poor housing time slot left few options for his suite. According to Xerri, he has experienced troubling encounters with non-Cornell students around the McGraws. 

“There are sometimes homeless people walking past my window, and one of them waved to me,” Xerri said. 

McGraw 109 Place houses the Cornell Food Pantry, which is open to all undergraduate and graduate students, as well as Cornell staff and faculty. Xerri expressed belief that a food pantry has no place in a resident hall, because it poses potential security threats.

“I feel like you shouldn’t have a food pantry in the same spot that you have a dorm,” Xerri said. “When it is open, there is usually a line outside the door, and I’ve heard of people trying to get in [to the residence hall].”

Joe Siguencia ’26, a current resident of 109 McGraw Place, has also observed homeless people loitering around the residence hall and attempting to enter the building. 

 “A few homeless people do try to come in every now and then, twice so far this year,” Siguencia said.

In addition to safety concerns, residents were vocal about rodent and insect encounters. Siguencia has spotted mice, spiders and other bugs around his dorm space. 

A large spider in a bathroom in 109 McGraw Place. (Courtesy of Marco Xerri ’26)

“There have been dead bugs on my windowsill randomly showing up, small flies and bugs in my room and even occasional giant spiders in the bathroom,” Siguencia said. “There’s also two mice currently residing in our lounge that we know of, so there’s definitely a rodent problem.”

Jackie Chen ’25, president of Phi Gamma Delta, said the former dorm was not properly boarded before the University transferred operations to the fraternity at the end of the summer.

“At the beginning of the year, there were a lot of insects and bugs in the house because the windows were left open over the summer,” Chen said. “After we cleaned all that up, it has been pretty good.”

Karen Brown, senior director of Campus Life Marketing and Communications, told the Sun that the McGraw residence halls are included in their pest protocol to address these issues.

“We have a pest control vendor who routinely visits our facilities, including the McGraw Place buildings, to help us minimize these problems, and our facilities team has a protocol in place to handle any issues that arise,” Brown said.

Xerri and Siguencia both mentioned a lack of hot water when they first arrived at the dorm. Residents took cold showers for about a week before maintenance fixed the issue, Xerri said. 

Joseph Sugarman ’24, a current resident of 109 McGraw Place, remarked on his relative indifference towards the McGraws despite complaints regarding air ventilation. 

“There’s nothing good about it, but there’s nothing bad about it,” Sugerman said. “Because they sealed off all these doors since they were frat doors, there is no ventilation in any of the rooms, and because there are so many windows, it’s like a big heat pit.”

Brown said that 109 McGraw Place is part of a Cornell housing renewal plan and is continually being repaired and renovated. Meanwhile, residents remain uneasy about the safety and hygienic concerns in the McGraws, especially amidst better housing options.

“I don’t think they are fit to be residence halls,” Xerri said.