Brandt aftermath: Students report mixed experiences with admin response


A December water pipe break has left many Brandt residents displaced and without sufficient financial reimbursement for lost property. Photo by Durah Albadr (‘26).

Since late December, the Brandt Hall water damage incident has been on the minds of both current and displaced Brandt residents, as well as many other students on campus. On December 27, while students were away on winter break, an email was sent to Brandt residents informing them that the West Wing had flooded due to a burst water pipe. Some rooms suffered water damage on the ceiling and others had damage to the floor. 


Approximately 120 students from Brandt West were permanently displaced from Brandt and are living in other campus residence halls until the end of the academic year. The damage assessment and cleaning were handled by two companies: ServPro and Advanced Environmental. The discovery of asbestos-containing materials in some damaged ceilings led to abatement as part of the repairs.


While students in Brandt Center and Brandt East remained in the building during the abatement and cleaning process, Brandt West was isolated from the remainder of the building. The isolation was done using sealed barriers and air pressure. As students arrived back on campus, Luther provided them with $100 for needed supplies for their rooms and $40 for food. 


In light of the college’s efforts, students have expressed mixed experiences with the results. Some reported positive experiences, while others negative. Students like Lily Nuland (‘26) reported that the money Luther gave them was not enough. 


“This wasn’t enough to replace all the necessary things we needed,” Nuland said. “Not having access to things I needed was very difficult. We were expected to have money to buy the things we needed. Not every student has money to buy things. I had no bedding, no toiletries, no books, no nothing.”


Other students, like Abhay Chhabra (‘26), reported getting reimbursed for the things they needed, but only after some time.


“I was back on campus on [January 3],” Chhabra said. “I got the 140 dollars straight up, but I had to wait for the other money for five or six weeks. It definitely took time. In the end I got everything I needed. They did a good job, but the process was pretty slow.”


Residents were told to set their reimbursement estimates to cover just what they would consider necessary. However, Julia Wendt (‘26) believed that these estimates seemed very arbitrary. 


“They were kind of like ‘we’re only going to reimburse things that you need, so if you’re spending your money on random stuff, we’re not going to reimburse that,’” Wendt said. “They did kind of tell us to lower the expectations, but I feel like they have a different definition of what you need than what a student would.”


Other students, like Maggie Hickman (‘26), reported a difference in how international and U.S. students experienced the administration’s response. 


“We were just thrown in [Miller Hall],” Hickman said. “I never really met my RA. I just met her for the first time this week for our sign-out meeting. My roommate is an international student. She only had a suitcase full of clothes. Her having to buy all this stuff—and it took her forever to get reimbursed—was way more stressful for her.” 


In addition to their financial struggles and loss of personal belongings, students also experienced mental health problems. International student Leen Zaher (‘26) expressed concern about her mental health due to the situation, citing increased anxiety and stress in the aftermath of the water damage. However, Zaher acknowledges that her situation is better than other students since she was prepared to stay in Miller over break due to Brandt’s closure. 


“I brought most of my stuff with me,” Zaher said. “My situation is better than most because I was already prepared.”


Students also reported varying experiences with the condition of their room. 


The renovation of Brandt West is expected to take its course over the next three years, and students like Wendt recognize the extraordinary circumstances of the December incident. Still, Wendt believes it could have been handled better. 


“I understand that it wasn’t expected and they had no protocol for this, but they could have given more money and they could have been nicer to us,” Wendt said. “They moved us and didn’t really tell us anything. They gave people back stuff badly. When I went to get my stuff from my room, we only had like an hour to get all of the stuff out of our room. It was crazy and they could have been more considerate or hospitable about it.”


As the semester has progressed, time has played out the response of Luther’s administration, but former Brandt residents are still dealing with the implications of their displacement. 


“The situation could have been handled much more gracefully,” Gaby Herbold (‘26) said. “Their responsiveness to the student’s concerns was effective, but everything else was handled wrong.”


In April, a fence went up around Brandt West. In a Bulletin email, it was shared with students that the college was beginning a three-year window and roofing project on the residence hall. 


According to the announcement, the construction on Brandt West has nothing to do with the recent water damage. Construction was supposed to begin last summer but was delayed due to supply chain issues.


Both Student Engagement and Facilities were asked to comment but didn’t respond by the time of publication.