By Bella Scutti
Freshman Eloise Arthur remembers the moment when her water went out. “The water went out and me and my roommates were a little alarmed. It was right before our classes,” said the Gulf Shores, Alabama, native. Arthur is a freshman pre-nursing biology at Millsaps College, which has quickly become home, in part because of her level of involvement. The water crisis has been an ongoing issue.
Recently, national media has put a spotlight on Jackson as residents were placed under a boil-water order. Jackson’s main water source comes from two plants: J.H. Fewell plant and O.B. Curtis plant. The demand for water now outweighs the supply from the plants, in addition to weakening filtration systems. Students were affected in unanticipated ways.
Arthur was unable to use her toilet, shower and sink. Students received emails about 15 minutes after water was shut off. The initial email was vague, stating more details were on the way. By early afternoon, an additional email was sent announcing virtual school for the following week.
Students felt mixed emotions. While Jackson natives had experienced this throughout their lives on some level, the water crisis was new territory for out of state students. Ultimately, there was uncertainty experienced by all because no one could predict how long the water would be out and classes would stay virtual.
“It was a little unnerving. Is it going to be like this all day? Is it a water pressure thing? We didn’t really know,” said Arthur.
Despite the hardships throughout the crisis, Arthur was particularly encouraged by the support and helpfulness of the Millsaps community.
“During the time the water went down was when Millsaps came together in the best way possible,” said Arthur.
Some students stayed on campus while others went home. Professors opened their homes to students and cooked meals for those in need. Portable bathrooms and showers were set up on campus for students who remained.
Arthur leaned on the friendships she was able to form to get her through the water crisis. A member of the cheer and tennis teams, she spends most of her time outside the classroom with her athlete peers and at practice. The teams are close-knit groups, helping Arthur quickly make friends. Some of her sports teams offered support by bringing water bottles to those in need throughout Jackson.
Aside from sports, Arthur has become involved in the Student Body Association (SBA) and Model United Nations. While Model United Nations does not start travel conferences until winter, she has already been quite accomplished as an SBA senator. SBA is the student government at Millsaps. Each member is part of a committee, and Arthur serves on both the dining committee as well as the health and wellness committee.
Arthur was provided the opportunity by SBA to directly assist students during the water crisis. Through the dining committee, she helped provide students with bottled and canned soft drinks while fountains were unable to be used.
“Part of SBA was making sure students were okay mentally, physically, and emotionally,” said Arthur.
On the health and wellness committee, Arthur encouraged students by helping provide basic needs. The water crisis was difficult on kids with allergies due to the cafeteria’s limited menu. An inability to wash dishes placed a major constraint on what the cafeteria could serve.
The menu was initially just sandwiches but expanded to salads when people with allergies expressed their concerns.
Although Millsaps welcomed Arthur, she does not plan to call Jackson home forever. She wants to move back to Denver, Colorado, where she was born, a decision that has nothing to do with the water crisis. Arthur hopes to use her Spanish skills to assist in working as a nurse, bridging the gap with the Latino community in Denver.
“I would not want to experience the crisis again, but it was a cool experience to see truthfully how much Millsaps really does care for its students,” Arthur said.