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The Collegiate stinks! Mysterious stench and sagging ceiling tile leads staff to evacuate office

photo of The Collegiate office. two facilites workers are inspecting a sagging ceiling tile. one person is on a ladder, the other is standing looking up at the damage. you cannot see it in this image, but the room smells very bad.
Custodian Gene Nichols (left) and Master Plumber Martin DeVries (right) inspect the ceiling of The Collegiate Office. (Blace Carpenter/The Collegiate)

On the morning of Aug. 31, The Collegiate editors’ meeting was derailed after the office began to smell more and more like the inside of a porta potty on a hot summer’s day. 

“I thought it was somebody at first, and then I realized, I was like, there’s no way somebody would… smell this bad…” said Kevin Lopez, The Collegiate’s co-managing editor and podcast producer.

Lopez fled the room, overwhelmed by the stink, and left the rest of the staff to suss out who, or what, was causing the smell.

“I went out to my car and put on extra deodorant,” editor-in-chief Blace Carpenter revealed hours later. “Well, I didn’t think it was, like, me directly. As a guy who is self-conscious about smells… I keep two sticks of deodorant and a thing of cologne in my car.” 

Likewise, Copy Editor, Jamie Miller, confessed, “I was wondering if it was me so I started rampantly trying to deflect blame.” 

Miller had sprinted down Fountain Street earlier that day, literally running late to class.

“(We) were all just silently blaming each other,” said Carpenter, laughing. 

By 2 p.m. the stench in 314 Raleigh J. Finkelstein Hall was even more pungent and a large ceiling tile at the back of the room was noticeably sagging. The smell was so bad, that there was speculation that a leaking sewage pipe was the cause of the issue. After they were alerted to the problem, I.T. personnel and various high-ranking college officials came into the office to inspect the ceiling, move computers away from the sagging tile, and remark on the horrible stench.

“When we all first went in there to check it out there was a… strong scent there,” said Grant Snider, associate dean of Liberal Arts. 

Kaitlyn Verhulst, GRCC’s academic professional support staff in the Language and Thought Department said, “The room stank. It smelled like dirty water.”

However, the stink did not phase Martin DeVries, GRCC master plumber, or Gene Nichols, custodian, who both arrived on the scene to resolve the issue. With the help of another colleague, they quickly determined that the stinky office and sagging ceiling was not due to a potential biohazard. 

“The heating element… the radiant heat above the ceiling is supported by the ceiling grid,” explained DeVries. “Those two separated and it’s the heating element (that caused the ceiling to) sag a little. …It’s a 120-year-old building… Weird things happen in old buildings.”

This was nothing compared to some of the more extreme challenges the GRCC facilities crew has had to deal with in the past. Before the start of the fall semester, DeVries and Nichols were dispatched to help with a multi-floor flood caused by an overflowing sink on the fourth floor. 

“…I was helping out at Spectrum Theater, cleaning over there,” Nichols said. “(I) come back over here and get a call. ‘Oh hey, there’s a small leak on (floor) three or four.’ The water was flowing down. Third shift had to come in… a couple hours early to help clean up. Ceiling tiles were falling all the way down to G1 from the fourth floor. So, what’s that? Six floors?”

Although The Collegiate office is now decked out with an air freshener supplied by Nichols, the mystery stench still lingers.

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