It’s 8 a.m. Thursday. Students living in Read Center slowly scatter to their respective classes while appearing overwhelmed and tired.
Signs posted on the glass doors leading to the Curry wing read “Last night’s false alarm was pulled by a fellow resident ... tonight’s ‘false alarm’ could kill.”
Workers in Read’s Crimson Cafe fire up the grill and sell cups for the cafe’s self-serve Hubbard & Cravens coffee.
“The fire alarms have been going off,” one said to another. “They went off in the rain the other night. My roommate’s definitely sick because of it.”
Buildings have been evacuated sometimes multiple times a day throughout the past week. Early Wednesday morning alarms sounded three times.
Sophomore Anna Mayfield lived in Forest Quad last year and said she enjoyed her residence hall experience — having food prepared for her and living close to academic buildings on campus.
Mayfield has been doing anything she can to get some sleep before her 9 a.m. music theory class, one she struggles to stay awake during on a normal day. This week she has crashed in both an off-campus hotel and an apartment and opted not to sleep in her own room in Read.
“It’s hard to stay focused on a normal day,” Mayfield said. “But with the lack of sleep, it’s awful. It’s everything I have to keep going.”
IU spokesperson Mark Land said the alarms are primarily being set off in Read’s Curry wing. There have been more than 20 false alarms in seven days, likely caused by disruptions to smoke detectors in the building’s sprinkler heads.
Land said in some instances it appeared that white spray, possibly deodorant or an aerosol spray, was used to trigger the alarms.
When sensors are triggered in the Curry wing, the whole building must leave — displacing about 500 students from their rooms for sometimes more than 30 minutes at 3, 4 and sometimes 5 in the morning. Each alarm must be treated as if it were real.
“We know that this is inconvenient,” Land said. “We know that nobody wants to get out in shorts and T-shirts at 4 in the morning when it’s 50 degrees outside. We’re asking that people bear with us as much as possible because we’re treating every one of these like it’s the real thing because that’s what we need to do.”
In a statement sent to Read residents Tuesday, IU Provost Lauren Robel said only Read residents have access to the residential floor where alarms have been triggered and, therefore, there must be residents with key information leading to those responsible for the alarms.
“As hard as we’re working at it, it’s really going to take our students and our residents there to help us put this to an end,” Land said. “The more information we get, the sooner we can get this taken care of.”
Extra IU Police Department patrols have been placed in the residence center, and Residential Programs and Services has been working closely with IUPD and several other offices to find those causing the disturbances.
Robel advised in her statement that those responsible for false alarms could be suspended and immediately removed from housing.
“When we find who is responsible — and we will — for tampering with fire equipment, pulling fire alarms or having any other involvement with this situation, that person or people will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law, and kept accountable through the university conduct system,” the statement said.
Meanwhile, students still lack sleep. When Mayfield returned to Read last Friday morning to take a nap to catch up on lost sleep, the alarms went off.
“Really? Again?” she thought to herself.
Each time she has to evacuate, she moves a little more slowly. Grabbing her shoes and a blanket, she can’t help but think, “Here it goes again.”
“It affects everything,” she said. “It affects classes. It affects lifestyles, everything. It’s ruining some students’ lives and it’s keeping us from staying in the dorms that we paid for.”
A leader of Chi Alpha Christian Fellowship, Mayfield said she is thankful to have a fellow leader in the organization who will let her stay in her apartment at Campus Corner. Before that, Mayfield and four other girls in her fellowship stayed at the Courtyard Marriott on Third Street.
“That’s probably what angers me the most is that these are freshman girls that I have in a group that I am trying to lead,” Mayfield said. “And they’re going through this horrible thing that’s messing with their lives and it just angers me so much because I don’t want them to be affected that way.”
While some are trying to take the events of the last week in stride and giving the unknown perpetrator nicknames like “the fire bandit,” others have been left frustrated.
Sophomore Bethany Hagin and her roommate have been staying with friends in Forest Quad and University East Apartments. A friend has dubbed the two girls “Read-fugees.”
“We like to be positive people generally,” Hagin said. “But it’s hard to relax when we’re here because we feel like we can’t get anything done.”
Hagin said when the second and third alarms sounded Friday night with an exam, an early morning lesson and a midterm paper due the next day, she was close to tears.
“I was in just a state of panic,” Hagin said.
Mayfield said she wouldn’t return to spend the night until those responsible are caught.
“I don’t know how to truly sum up just how irresponsible and wrong it is,” Mayfield said.