Imagine you’re about to dig into a nice piece of fried chicken at West Union when all of a sudden you hear sirens resonating throughout the dining hall. For many students, this might be a matter of remembering rather than imagining—if you’ve eaten at West Union, you’ve likely experienced that situation in the past two months.

Since opening in August, the fire alarms in West Union have gone off frequently and not as a result of planned drills or actual fire hazards. In the first 60 days of class, the alarms have been set off between 15 and 20 times, said Rick Johnson, associate vice president of student affairs for Housing, Dining and Residence Life. 

Many of the restaurants in West Union, such as Ginger + Soy and Tandoor dining stations, generate a considerable amount of smoke, Johnson noted. 

“The design team placed smoke detectors in areas where they were not required and prone to alarm, in the venues near cooking equipment,” he said. “We believe that situation has been corrected.”

Usually most of these problems are dealt with during a “soft opening,” or a period of time before the official opening of a building when many maintenance features are tested. However, because the soft opening for West Union was shorter than usual, many of these issues were not resolved, Johnson explained.

“The soft opening was compressed to only one week before opening,” he said. “The design and builder teams have been working diligently to fix the problem.”

Reactions to these occurrences among students vary. Some students, like first-year Chloe McGlynn, said they were not impacted greatly. McGylnn noted that most people seem used to the alarms by now. 

“The fire alarm went off, and I was waiting in line to get food. Everyone kind of looked around but nobody moved,” she said. “The workers didn’t stop working, and people didn’t stop eating.”

Other students however, like first-year Dilan Trivedi, were annoyed by the episodes.

“I was waiting at the crepe place, and the fire alarm went off. We were all just standing there looking around, and for a good five minutes, I was just waiting there for my food,” the hungry first-year said. “Then, they told us it wasn’t a drill, so I went out, and I never got my food.”