On Feb. 23, a small fire erupted in New North Residential College, damaging 16 rooms and displacing 32 students.
The Department of Public Safety (DPS) disclosed that a "burned out electrical strip" started the fire, setting off fire alarms and activating sprinklers throughout the building. According to USC Housing, no one was injured, and while the sprinkler system "worked as expected", the most damage was caused by water.
"The amount of actual fire damage was minimal. The real issue in these cases is the water damage due to the activation of the fire life safety sprinkler systems," said Chris Ponsiglione, Senior Associate Director for USC Housing.
This led to the university to enact their emergency response plan, which includes sending students to the Radisson on Figueroa Street and converting lounge spaces into student rooms.
"I had to move into the Radisson until March 19, and I had to take my clothes and anything I need for spring break with me," said Cody Ela, a public policy major.
While the Radisson accommodated as many students as it could, the hotel was not able to host everyone.
"The assignment of students to the Radisson was in some parts random but also took into consideration when we were able to get in touch with students, how much their spaces may have been impacted and how many rooms were available at the Radisson and for how long," said Ponsiglione.
According to Ponsiglione, many of the affected students were able to return to their rooms, and that the University is sending out updates as renovations occur for the rest who have yet move back.
"The first night it happened they [USC] told us to just find somewhere to stay. Luckily, my friends in Gateway have an extra couch and bed, but my entire floor was wet and…my stuff was ruined," added Ela.
In addition to temporarily losing their rooms, many students have lost belongings. USC Housing stresses that having renter's insurance is crucial.
"I've been a lot more busy replacing all of the things that couldn't get wet like my computer and notes…We had the housing insurance so hopefully everything that got ruined will get reimbursed," said Burke Magnus via text message, a freshman who was affected by the fire.
For students like Burke who have insurance, but have not been reimbursed yet, USC Housing said that the Office of Risk Management will handle these claims.
"It is never our intention to impact the student's studies. Our mission is to fully support the academic endeavors of our residents by providing the best USC experience we can, which is why we make a concentrated effort to address situations like this," said Ponsiglione.
Annenberg Media followed-up with USC to see if displaced students will be reimbursed for the time they weren't living in the rooms they currently pay for. We will update this story if we get a response.