update: I live where I work, and now there’s a haunted house next to me

It’s here: the start of “where are they now?” season, when we get updates from people who had their letters answered here this year (or sometimes earlier), and we get to find out how things turned out. We have so many updates this year that I’m going to be publishing at least one every day from now until the end of the year. Here’s the first…

Remember the letter-writer in October whose job required her to live on campus, and students were putting on a haunted house right under her, filling her apartment with screams and making it impossible to relax? Here’s the update.

The day you posted my letter, my boss told me in a very clipped manner that the VP would be handling the haunted house situation (she pretty much didn’t talk to me all week after our initial complaints) and the VP reached out to me and my husband. That same day, my husband also left for a a job in a major city four hours away. The VP said he asked that the student group halt their preparation until a solution could be reached. Two days after that, they were back in the basement, and a male stood outside my door repeatedly saying, “We have to be very, very quiet,” which of course left me feeling quite scared.

I let the VP know what happened, and he said they shouldn’t have been down there as no solution was reached. A couple days after that, I received a very formal letter via email from him including my boss, her boss, HR, and our representative from the attorney general’s office (sigh) detailing the steps that were being taken. In short, the student group was allowed to work on the haunted house during regular business hours while I was at work, the weekend before while I was out of town, and the three nights that it was taking place my employer was going to put me and my dogs up at a local hotel. Although I didn’t exactly like dragging my dogs and belongings to a hotel for three nights and being kept from my home (I had to leave immediately after work because each night they were already down there making noise), I couldn’t say the accommodation was unreasonable and I at least got three decent nights of sleep.

Overall, it seems that your advice that I will lose the war has been correct and I have felt ostracized by my boss ever since. I feel like I am quickly being forced out of a job I’ve been looking to leave for 5 months. However, I appreciate how supportive most of the comments from your readers were and particularly that several said this job wasn’t worth the negative impact on my health. Those comments resonated quite a bit with me (what wasn’t in my initial letter was that I suffered from hives all summer due to job related stress as well), and so I am happy to say that I have plans to be moving to where my husband is shortly, in our new apartment not on a college campus! I have had a part time job for several months that makes me happy and that allows more opportunity in this other city, and it’s looking like I could have another full time job lined up soon as well.


{ 73 comments… read them below }

  1. Myrin*

    The boss’s behaviour continues to be weirdly adversarial but I’m really glad at least the VP was taking action and it’s looking up for OP overall!

    1. Clever Name*

      I agree. It is weirdly adversarial.

      I’m glad you’re getting out of there! It sounds like you’ll have a new job in no time. :)

    2. Jeanne*

      The boss’s behavior is pathetic. But I believe in cases like this they become adversarial because you are forcing them to work or think harder than usual and the resent it. In this case, everything was fabulous until OP asked for help. Boss was then forced to help which she had no interest in doing.

      The whole thing sucks but I am so glad OP can move on and be in better circumstances.

      1. fposte*

        It’s also essentially a government employer, which I don’t think we knew before; it’s like asking Seismosaurus to jump through a hoop.

      2. AnonEMoose*

        I think this is probably quite accurate. I think the boss may also have been, in his/her head, thinking something like “it can’t possibly be that bad, and why can’t OP just let the students have their fun…”

      3. INTP*

        Ding Ding Ding

        I’m also wondering if the boss already had a secret grudge over the OP’s anxiety accommodations and this just threw her over the top. Like “First she wants her cubicle moved out of the Nerf Gun Firing Zone because it makes her anxious, and I didn’t complain at all even though I have to walk an extra 30 feet to her desk. And now she wants us to shut down a haunted house just so she doesn’t have to hear a little noise!?” (I am Team OP here all the way, and the boss is ridiculous for holding a grudge about any of this, just speculating on her perspective on all of it.)

    1. Haunted (OP)*

      They’re the school’s legal counsel since it’s a public and not large enough to afford it’s own.

    2. Tiffy the Fed... Contractor*

      I’m wondering if she means the Office of General Counsel i.e. the university’s lawyers, not the state’s attorney general.

  2. Allison*

    Darn college kids. I’m only a few years out of college and I definitely recall how many people that age have this “whatever, we do what we want!” mindset, and don’t like being told things like “no” or “please keep it down.” Glad the VP was on your side and tried to come up with a solution, and ultimately, I’m glad you’re moving on to better things!

    1. The Artist Formally Known As UKAnon*

      +1 All of this. I’m so glad you had someone on your aide and were able to arrange something, however imperfect, OP.

    2. Charityb*

      Honestly, I still can’t blame the college kids for this. The university was 100% at fault IMO for making the OP live on top of what’s essentially a open-access community center and not even taking basic steps to mediate the (in my view) obvious and inevitable conflicts. The fact that this had to be escalated so high before it was resolved is appalling and I’m glad that the OP is moving on; any boss that reacts to (again) *obvious*, *inevitable* conflicts like this is probably a bad boss on other levels too.

      1. Allison*

        oh I agree, I think someone was clueless not to realize what the space might be used for. I mean, I remember my alma mater’s center for social justice (or something along those lines) was in the basement of a residential building, so it’s not like community spaces can’t mix with residential ones, but the university can’t let it be a free-for-all, there needs to be some control over what the space can be used for and when.

      2. Lizzy May*

        Agreed. The students assigned that space probably didn’t know at the time it was right near someone’s home. Even the guy outside her door begging for silence was the students trying to be considerate, even if it didn’t actually fix the situation. There are many reasons to have staff living in residence, but a school should do their best to ensure the staff have privacy and are able to relax in their own home.

        1. Queen Anne of Cleves*

          I think the guy outside her door was being sarcastic actually. He stood right outside her door and was mocking her. That is how I understood it.

          1. Allison*

            I couldn’t tell which is was, actually. I figured, because he was right outside her door, he was trying to intimidate her or somehow get back at her for trying to get in their way. If he was telling them to be quiet, wouldn’t he have been in the basement?

          2. Haunted (OP)*

            Yes, I didn’t describe it as such in my post, but the way he was saying it was very slow and exaggerated, and coupled with the repetativeness I understood it to be a way of mocking and intimidating me.

            1. Lizzy May*

              Well that’s what I get for giving someone benefit of the doubt. Even more sorry OP that you went through all of that.

        2. Kyrielle*

          I can’t agree. I could’ve when the students didn’t know yet, but they were supposed to stay out and “halt their preparation until a solution could be reached.”

          Instead, they were back in there, even though the VP “said they shouldn’t have been down there as no solution was reached.”

          And one of them was outside OP’s door…upstairs from the space?…saying they had to be very very quiet. Unless it only sounded that way because of the weird acoustics of the space.

          I could cut them lots of slack *before* they were told to suspend operations while finding a solution, but to go back *after* that and continue, on the sly? Typical college-student malfeasance, but not sufficiently considerate and not good behavior. Nor am I convinced that trying to be quiet was *considerate* vs *trying not to be caught*, given that they weren’t supposed to be doing that at the time. (And probably felt a certain amount of schedule-pressure panic at the delay in their plans, thus thinking they “needed” to do this, I’d guess.)

      3. OfficePrincess*

        Eh, I can’t fully absolve the students here. I know that if this situation had come up at my alma mater, the haunted house would have been cancelled as soon as the students went back in after being told to stop. Per the OP “The VP said he asked that the student group halt their preparation until a solution could be reached. Two days after that, they were back in the basement, …I let the VP know what happened, and he said they shouldn’t have been down there as no solution was reached.”

        1. Anonsie*

          Considering how mixed the writer’s management has been on this, I would not be surprised in the slightest if the haunted house people were also getting mixed messages and weird information from the college that made them think setting up again was ok.

    3. INTP*

      For sure. Even in my fancy student apartment buildings, where 1 bedrooms were about 1200/month and only juniors/seniors/grad students/honor students were allowed to live, this made me miserable. I had to call in a noise complaint every night to go to sleep, and in college I was a heavy sleeper that went to bed at 2AM regularly. Every Monday I would go to the office to report the piles of vomit around my apartment (only the ones I had to step over! not like I went around the grounds tallying them all) and the student employee would dramatically roll her eyes at me for being sooooooooo high maintenance that I wanted the vomit cleaned up instead of to smell it baking in the California sun. The first few months the vomit got cleaned up, but after that it never did.

      Never. Ever. Again. Even in grad school I had the option to live in similar furnished housing and refused in favor of the stuffier neighborhood where the professors live. I’d turn down a job over having to live on a campus unless the housing was completely separate from where the students live.

      1. Charlotte Lucas*

        I’ve lived in two different college towns where at some point in the past, Greek Row was moved further from campus, because no one wanted to deal with the aftermath of their parties that close to campus/dorms (a few groups had lost their rights to a house altogether). Now I live in a college town where that isn’t the case. You really notice the difference.

        1. Scotty_Smalls*

          My town had no Greek Row. Woohoo!!! The only Frat house I knew of was on a hill about 5 mins away from campus on the freeway. Rumor was that sorority houses weren’t allowed because of an ordinance limiting the amount of women in one house. You know, because otherwise it could have been a brothel. Lol

          1. honoria*

            In Georgia, I know, any house with more than 4 unrelated women living in it is legally defined as a brothel. Gotta love those blue laws.

      2. Kyrielle*

        …I lived in the dorms all four years I was in college, and I never ran into this at all. I mean, people went to the bars and threw up, but normally in the bushes or the bathroom and I never saw the evidence, just heard talk of it on very rare occasion. This is so weird to me, and I would not have assumed an on-campus situation would be like that based on my experiences on campus….

        1. cs grad*

          You are lucky. My freshman roommate threw up in our room. Her stumbling around woke me up, so I got to listen to the whole thing. I woke her up at noon with my alarm and told her that I was going to the library and I expected it to be cleaned up when I got back.

        2. BananaPants*

          I lived in a dorm for all 4 years, at a state university with a fairly hard-partying reputation, but people tended to puke in the bathrooms at dorm parties (or off in the woods at apartment/frat/sorority parties). I can’t remember ever encountering puddles of vomit. I now count myself fortunate…

        3. INTP*

          The apartments were a lot wilder than the dorms. We had no RAs and less supervision in general so people could actually hold parties versus pregame or stumble in drunk.

          1. Elizabeth West*

            Yeah, our dorms were pretty quiet. The biggest problems we had were with people playing their stereos too loudly. Of course, I was in the women’s dorm; from what I heard, the co-ed dorm was a little bit more rowdy.

        4. Anonsie*

          Yeah, same with me. And the apartments were even quieter because it was all older students/people with families/grad students who had way less tolerance for shenanigans than the dorm folks did.

          There were a lot of noise issues but this wasn’t due to bad behavior, more like bad arrangements where you windows opened to common areas that were necessarily noisy or service areas around the dining hall that had very early morning and very late night work that was loud. And I definitely never found vomit anywhere.

        5. Kore*

          I lived in a dorm for two years and didn’t notice this at all, but I lived in the honor student dorm and they tended to be a lot stricter about drinking and such.

      3. Emma the Strange*

        Um. Barf is a serious biohazard, and his tons odd germs. At my (small liberal arts) college, they even put up signs in the bathrooms saying something like “Barf is a biohazard, don’t clean it up yourself, call this number and we’ll send someone who knows how to do it properly.”

        And so far as I know, they were very reliable about that. (I never saw piles of barf in any of the dorms or bathrooms near party locations)

  3. Anonsie*

    I have nothing constructive, just– what is with people? What. Is. With. People. Question. Mark.

    I’m glad you’re getting the hell out though, LW, really. Just reading about this made me anxious and uncomfortable for you.

      1. Allison*

        But . . . why? Like, are jerks just naturally nasty people? Did their parents fail to teach them to be considerate of others? Did their parents tell them they’re special, “above” other people, and deserve to have whatever they wand handed to them? Did their parents succeed in teaching them to be nice, only to see them later ruined by some bad incident, or by being surrounded by other jerks?

        So I guess what I asking is, are people born obnoxious? Or do they have obnoxiousness thrust upon them?

        1. Ad Astra*

          Most people are born obnoxious and learn more civilized behaviors as they grow up. You can see toddlers exhibit a certain amount of altruism that seems to be inborn, but any kind of actual manners are learned. And some people don’t learn them very well.

        2. The Strand*

          I disagree, nurture does play a part, but hard-wired altruism and a sense of fairness is implied by many social science studies. A certain (small) number of us are also, for whatever reason, born to be sociopaths, or dealing with various personality challenges.

          I think most jerks are insecure people who just don’t think that deeply or empathize well, and have had something happen to them, where they are jealous of their opportunities and positions to the point of acting out against others (including preemptively). Jerks are not most people, but most people have acted jerky once in a while towards other, because someone pushed their “hot button”.

        3. NK*

          I think there are very few people in the world who think they are jerks. Most people think they’re doing the right or reasonable thing, or have some way of justifying their actions. I would guess OP’s boss thinks that OP is the unreasonable one here, given that she mentioned in the original post that they have a lot of issues. And so boss thinks that this is just one more area where OP is a difficult employee. And because boss doesn’t like OP, she’s not inclined to empathize with her situation as she probably would with someone she liked.

          None of this defends the boss’ actions, of course, but I bet if the boss wrote in, she would be making herself out to be an entirely reasonable person. And would probably get ripped apart by the commenters!

          1. Biff*

            To be fair here, we only get one side of the story and Alison asks us to take it face value. It’s entirely possible that this isn’t as it seems. But we are deliberately treating it just as it as presented.

            I do think some people know they are jerks but genuinely and honestly feel entitled to be so. I’ve certainly met people like that.

        4. Lyn*

          Yes to every statement you made in your first paragraph. That is why we have so many problems today with students on campuses being “offended” by everything and “needing” special accommodations made for them.

  4. Liz L*

    Love a good update! It’s too bad about the job situation but your positive outlook and attitude are really admirable. Good luck with the full time job situation!

  5. Lizzy May*

    I’m someone who has lived and worked in a university residence and let me tell you OP, I think its good you’re getting out. Your boss was very adversarial about a very reasonable request. Noise is going to happen in a shared living space like a residence, but a haunted house is more than a little over the top. Best of luck with your next steps!

  6. Chameleon*

    Totally off topic, but I’m loving the seasonal update to the manager icon at the top of the page! She looks so cozy!

          1. Whoops*

            Might have punched the air a little bit when I read this :P Any chance of any super-throwback updates?

  7. ResLifer*

    I worked as a Hall Director for 7 years. I had supervisors who had the mindset that we were just grown up children who knew what we signed up for and I had supervisors who treated us as professionals when we left. It sounds like you had supervisors who didn’t care about your needs.

    That being said, the best supervisors were ones that let me work out these issues with students directly. I always maintained that I was part of the building and the community and I had some responsibility to that. I would have made some reasonable accommodations to have it be one night only or end by 9pm and make plans. Depending on my relationship with the students I would have asked if I could help one day while they set up. There were some events that happened in my building that I wanted nothing to do with and I made plans to be elsewhere.

    To put it in perspective, I now live off-campus and live in a large apartment building. Guess what, it’s loud sometimes, and at Halloween they do a big party for all the kids in the Lobby and they post when it will be. I have the choice to be part of the party, ignore it, or leave. So I think it’s an opportunity to pick battles. Ultimately, I think it was best for you folks to get off campus (like it was for me) Hope the new job and apartment go well!

  8. The Strand*

    I am so happy for you! I don’t actually think you lost the war. You’re moving on to greener pastures, with your husband and dogs, and you didn’t let these idiots bully you into a further deterioration of your mental and physical health.

    Also, your boss, I am sure, was chewed out by the VP. More than once. Once it’s at the attorney general level that means the paper trail can’t be just flicked away, as it can from a fuming parent or student upset over something stupid.

    It was a rotten situation but some day it will be a story you’ll tell and shake your head at. Full steam ahead, and have a great 2016.

  9. Former Retail Manager*

    Sorry it didn’t work out better. Sounds like it might be a good idea to move on as soon as you are able. Best of luck!

    1. I'm older than I look*

      College is their ‘safe space’ to be free from microagressions caused by people who want to sleep…

  10. Coffee Ninja*

    We have so many updates this year that I’m going to be publishing at least one every day from now until the end of the year

    “Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before. What if Christmas, he thought, doesn’t come from a store. What if Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more.”

  11. Julie*

    I’m sorry you had to go through this, OP. And for what it’s worth, I too have suffered stress-induced hives. I have found that Zyrtec (over the counter in the US) works great, and takes care of them within 20 min. It’s also worked for a friend of mine suffering from the same thing. It makes life a bit more comfortable while we work on tackling the source of the stress itself. Good luck!

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