Alexandra Hall

Alexandra Hall (‘Alex Hall’ or just ‘Alex’) is a privately-owned hall of residence for students at the University of Wales, Aberystwyth.

THE farthest uni-managed accomodation from the actual uni. It’s literally the LAST building on the seafront, next to the Consti.

History

Built at least a hundred years ago as an all-girls hall. Then it fell into disrepair. Stayed like that for yonks, until some entrepeneur decided to buy it but never did anything with it. Then some private company bought it & made it semi-safe for students to live in again.

Building Work

The renovated parts look nice & shiny, however on closer inspection it’s obvious that renovation was carried out by mentally-retarded chimpanzees liberated from an animal testing facility in Western Samoa, who shopped at a cheap Russian imitation of Ikea. Things break & fall apart on a daily basis, & take yonks to get repaired. It took over 5 weeks for someone to repair a shower, after the first repair-job they did fell apart the very next day.

Renovation was meant to be quick.

It wasn’t.

Social Area

During this renovation work, they completely ruined the nice social environment & hid all the period character behind plasterboard. It’s now split into 4-6 bedroom flats, finished in sterile white. There’s no social area whatsoever; no common room, no TV room, no bar – nothing.

Some flats don’t have any table or chairs in the kitchen, as they are too small. This means that some residents have no choice but to stay sitting in the same chair all the time – eating, working, socialising. Not only is this dull, but staying in the same position can cause back problems. Due to the University closing down the few remaining 24 hour workstation rooms in town, there isn’t even the option to go and work somewhere else any more.

A bar was supposed to open last year. It didn’t, although the paper covering of the windows of the area earmarked as the future social area began falling off this year, revealing the ghostly building site within.

Ventilation Issues

Many parts of the building have absolutely no ventilation. It can be seen that many of the ground-floor bedrooms have sealed-shut, wire-reinforced glass. Inside, there is no ventilation whatsoever.

Worse still, some kitchens in the buildings not only have no windows, but also no extractor fans, no vents at all; the only way air can get in and out of the kitchens is when the door is open. Being a fire door, it is illegal to prop this door open, and even then, the air flow still has to pass through two more fire doors before it gets to the outside world.

British building regulations state that a kitchen must have
“Controllable and secure ventilation opening having a total area not less than 4000mm² or by mechanical ventilation being in addition capable of operating continuously at nominally one air change per hour.”, as regards constant background ventilation, plus:
“Mechanical ventilation rated as capable of extracting at a rate of not less than 60 l/sec (or incorporated within a cooker hood and capable of extracting at a rate of 30 l/sec) or PSV. Rapid ventilation by opening window.”

Thus some flats in Alex Hall are in breach of building regulations, and have been for the four years it has been since the halls were re-opened.

Laundry Room

There is a laundrette in the basement. The four washers are okay, but the four driers are constantly malfunctioning and take a long time be repaired.

One student sent an email in 2007 complaining that he had to put in a small wash load for several hours to get it dry. On returning from an industrial placement in 2008, he found to his surprise that nothing had changed. After several further complaints, the driers were finally fixed in 2009. It took the maintenance team two years to fix some tumble driers. Exclamation mark.

Additionally, the machines are programmed in an extortionate way. For example, a “super” wash costs £1.80. If you insert £2, after the wash the 20p change stays in the machine’s memory, and the next wash gets a 20p discount.

However, if you wait a while, that 20p disappears into the void. The 20p that you decided to leave for the next user, ends up lines some washing machine maintenance guy’s pocket.

You can only dry clothes in £1 increments, too; meaning that if your clothes only need an extra 10 minutes to become fully dry, you have to spend a whole extra £1. For many years, the driers were programmed to always leave clothes a little bit wet, forcing everyone to pay double for their drying.

Network Issues

Alex Hall was one of the first halls of residence to be subject to 802.1x network restrictions. These restrictions mean that no internet connection can be established without installing and configuring extra network drivers, making it very difficult for users of alternative operating systems (which are not supported by IS) to be used. The policy was implemented to avoid MAC address spoofing, because IS consider it necessary to be able to track every packet of data to individual users.

The restrictions also make it impossible to establish a direct connection between two systems located on different parts of the university network without creating tunnels through central, which causes huge issues for network applications such as X11.

This policy has since been extended to all halls of residence, and has been widely criticised by residents, and narrowly defended by IS staff members.

Fire Alarms

In the first year after renovation, fire alarms occurred almost daily (seemingly always when in the shower; cooking dinner, etc). They are so frequent that many students stay in their rooms and endanger their lives rather than evacuate. At first the fire brigade would turn up and moan about their time being wasted, but now they don’t even come until a warden has confirmed that there really is a fire.

In the fourth year, false alarms are still a regular occurrence, about once every few weeks – during which the entire building is evacuated rather than just the affected parts.

Due to the internal layout, some flats have fire doors which lead into the flats from the outside, meaning that anyone can access the inside of these flats – raiding the kitchen, or during the holiday season, allowed free reign to attempt picking the locks of the bedroom doors, or even just sleeping in the hallway. There is no way to prevent this without breaking fire safety regulations, so people in these flats are forced to live without any security for the year.

Hot Water

There were several hot water failures during the 2008 academic year. On one occasion in the winter, hot water was unavailable for several days. No alternative arrangements were made by halls management, even though they manage all of the neighbouring buildings which were unaffected and could have negotiated with the tenants for use of their facilities. No suggestions of gyms, swimming pools, or other alternatives were given.

Miscellaneous Problems

This section lists other problems with the flats which management have been made aware of, but which have not been fixed. If adding to this section, please record the date at which a complaint was made so that future residents can refer to these in their own emails.

  • The bay windows in many rooms have large gaps between the two panes, some between 5 and 10mm. Thus the window is never fully closed.
  • Being on the seafront, said windows also have a habit of rattling. Especially at 3 am.
  • Heaters can only be turned on, and not turned off until the timer expires after 2 hours. The touch-sensitive switches are placed right next to the light switch, meaning it is very easy to trigger them accidentally. This combined with windows that don’t open, makes for an awful living environment.

Positive Things

It’s not all doom and gloom in Alex Hall however. This section lists the reasons why, even with all of the horror, it is still a nice place to live.

  • It’s by the sea.
  • It gets you out of a bunk room. (Potentially)
  • It also offers (in some cases) ensuite bathrooms so that you do not have to pluck your housemate’s hair from the hole in the shower to avoid treadding on a mass of tangled hair of questionable origin
  • One is not forced to actually talk to people and eating in one’s own room is encouraged. (Since there is no dining room or tables)