Mississippi College

Mississippi College Students Return to Chrestman Hall

January 19, 2009

Mississippi College freshman Sam Murray returned to Chrestman Hall Monday afternoon and said he was more than satisfied with MC's response to the fire in the building two days earlier.

"I don't know if they could have done anything better," said Murray, a 19-year-old Brandon resident minutes after getting instructions from a resident assistant in the building's lobby. The blaze in the four-story building's basement meant he must move to Chrestman Hall's third floor on a temporary basis.

On the Martin Luther King Jr. national holiday, "I wasn't planning on moving all my stuff," he said. But the important thing to remember, Murray said, is that nobody was hurt in the weekend dorm fire.

MC leaders got the green light for scores of Chrestman Hall residents to return after inspectors with an Arkansas-based company determined the air quality was good. Clean-up crews worked around the clock to wash down walls, floors and bathrooms following the blaze Saturday afternoon. The building is home to 210 male residents. There were 50 students in the building when Clinton firefighters responded about 2 p.m. Saturday afternoon. Most were away due to holiday weekend.

MC administrators worked closely with campus security leaders and residence hall assistants and others to make the best out of a difficult situation. There have been no arrests in the case of suspected arson.

"I'm very pleased with the response by the staff and the college," said Jim Turcotte, vice president for enrollment management and student affairs as he made another visit to the building. "Students are being very helpful in the process."

Some students, like freshman Kiery Stribling, 19, of Philadelphia, who lived in the Chrestman basement, must relocate to another MC residence hall. He moved Monday afternoon to Whittington Hall.

A team of resident assistants including senior Jonathan Buckner, 21, of Starkville, opened the front door to Chrestman on a chilly mid-January day to welcome the students back. "You can go straight to your room," he told one MC student with a basket of fresh clothes.

A total of 38 Chrestman students, who lived in the basement, were required to relocate to other floors in the building or to Whittington Hall.

MC officials closed the building Saturday afternoon, and that included the laundry in the basement. MC will reimburse students remaining in Chrestman with $10 for their first week back and $6 weekly until the facility reopens to help cover their laundry expenses.

On other fronts, an investigation continues into the residence hall fire and the search is ongoing for the person or persons believed responsible. MC campus police and the Clinton Police Department are among the agencies involved.

MC leaders Sunday announced a $2,500 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person or persons who set the fire. MC added $1,500 to a $1,000 reward given by the state fire marshal. Some people have called in tips to the MC Department of Public Safety. MC campus police and Clinton police have stepped up patrols of the Clinton campus in recent days and that will continue.

People with any information about the fire are urged to call MC campus police at 601.925.3204. People can also contact the Office of Student Affairs at 601.925.3359.

Photo: MC Chrestman Hall resident assistants Jonathan Buckner and Travis Duke

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