Hedging their bets, University officials said on Sunday they will set up a red steam shovel as an option to rescue the 33 Chilean students trapped underground since August 5.
The 33 Chilean students arrived on campus almost a month early for Chilean Student Orientation, a special program designed to acclimate the Andes-dwellers to life in Middletown.
Due to the Summer Session’s use of other facilities, the students were housed in Deep-Deep-Down 4, a disused section of the West College dormitory. Seismic activity caused by a high-decibel Buru Style rehearsal collapsed the poorly maintained underground residence hall. Luckily, the students had congregated in the main room to practice their colorful indigenous weaving techniques, and the small common area was spared by the cave-in, which crushed over 90% of livable space. Rescuers spent several days trying to determine whether any students had survived. After inserting a thin pipe into the subterranean area, University officials communicated with the trapped students and learned that all 33 were alive and boisterous. One official said the rowdy noises emanating from the cavern suggested the students were having a Chilean party.
Isaac Thompson ’12, a Residential Life orientation worker, has emerged as the group’s spiritual leader. He has organized a small secular chapel and leads the group in daily, extra-hot Bikram yoga sessions. Thompson, in an e-mail, joked that he thought his “forced-triple freshman year was bad haha” but added, in all seriousness, that he would be demanding a great deal of overtime pay. The group has voted in rules governing communal eating, gender-neutral bathrooms, and quiet hours. Sexile etiquette is still being negotiated.
WesCo’s listserv has already generated dozens of ideas for lifting the trapped students’ spirits, including a benefit concert and the delivery of medicinal herbs through the three-inch hole that provides food and water. On Sunday night all the Chilean students received a text from Wesleyan Student Assembly vice-president Ben Firke, which read, “don’t worry guys. help is on the way. –re-elect Feiring/Firke.”
The WSA has commented that in the wake of this tragedy it would be disrespectful for University officials to enforce the new open-container policy.