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June 12, 2014

Faculty complain about classroom maintenance

classroomservices.kkbThe University Senate plant utilization and planning committee (PUP) will look into faculty complaints about ongoing poor maintenance in some classrooms and restrooms on campus.

Several faculty members spoke up at the June 3 Faculty Assembly meeting about classroom and restroom conditions as well as about inconsistent responsiveness when requests for service are made.

Some Faculty Assembly members were in favor of establishing a ticket system — similar to the system for technology help requests — to make it easier to alert Facilities Management to problems as well as to track resolution.

Assembly member Jay Sukits conveyed concerns from colleagues in the business school and recounted his own problems with several large lecture halls in Lawrence Hall, Posvar Hall and the Cathedral of Learning.

Sukits said one accounting faculty member told him that there were so many lights burned out in a classroom on the first floor of Posvar Hall that he had to shuffle students to different parts of the classroom during their final exam so that they could see.

Another who taught a class in 208B Cathedral of Learning noted that few of the blinds in that classroom worked properly, causing problems with sun glare. Sukits added, “It tends to be a classroom that collects junk for some reason,” noting that among the clutter he found when he taught a class there several years ago was a huge box of Legos that someone had left behind.

More recently, Sukits said he was scheduled to teach in 1640 Posvar last term, and visited the classroom several weeks prior to the start of classes. “I went in there and that classroom was in shambles. There literally was a pile of rubbish, garbage in the corner that was about three feet high. Broken furniture, empty coffee cups, a whole bunch of things.”

Despite a complaint to the business school dean’s office and his own follow-up, he said he found the room “still a complete wreck” two days before the start of classes.

He tracked down a pair of maintenance workers and enlisted them to help him clean. “The three of us went in and threw everything out. We threw everything away, we straightened out all the furniture, we cleaned the blackboards,” he said.

In contrast to the “immediate response” when problems arise in the classrooms in Mervis Hall, Sennott Square and Alumni Hall controlled by the business school, “There seems to be no responsiveness on this,” Sukits said.

Scott Nelson of chemistry advocated for calling Facilities Management directly to report problems. “My interactions with Facilities Management have been completely different,” he said. In his department, the large lecture halls in Chevron Science Center “collect junk pretty rapidly from all of the students who go in and out of there,” he said.

“My experience has been uniformly positive. The next time I’m in that room, whatever I called Facilities Management about has been tended to, generally to my satisfaction,” he said.

“I’m not suggesting that these experiences you had didn’t actually occur, what I’m saying is that when I cut out the middleman … usually two days later, by the time I’m back in there lecturing, it’s usually in pretty good shape.”

Others who spoke up didn’t share his positive view.

University Senate secretary Linda Frank of the Graduate School of Public Health said she has noticed problems with restroom maintenance. “This is an ongoing problem throughout the campus. As a public health person I feel like there should be more attention paid to the restrooms.”

She said, “I do my own little studies when I see a spill on the floor and I monitor how long it stays there.” Frank added that she made frequent calls about a break room in her school that was without hot water. It was fixed after about a year and a half, she said.

Kathleen Kelly of the School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences said, “Even in our building, which we control, there’s no routine maintenance that you can count on … It shouldn’t have to be that you have to call during a semester … it should just be routine.”

She said, “We’ve even gone as far as, when we’ve had events on the weekends, to request specific cleaning of restrooms because they don’t get cleaned and even then it falls through the cracks.”

PUP committee member Paul Munro of information sciences, who also is the faculty representative on the classroom management team, said that concerns about needed upgrades can be directed to the registrar. He added that the head of Facilities Management (vice chancellor Joseph Fink) attends PUP meetings, so the faculty issues would be heard.

Seth Weinberg of dental medicine suggested adopting a system similar to technology help requests, which are assigned a ticket number and can be tracked.

Alexandros Labrinidis of computer science said a ticket system that could group maintenance requests by building and type of problem could yield useful information on areas that may need more frequent attention or additional personnel.

Sukits agreed that a ticket system could be helpful, but said faculty shouldn’t have to make requests for routine issues. “I’m not talking about things like major problems… I’m talking about garbage, boards that are not clean, broken. We should not have to put in tickets for that. That should be done on a routine basis to keep the classrooms in great shape.”

Angela Riccelli of dental medicine agreed, calling on managers within Facilities Management to inspect the condition of campus buildings and insist on accountability. “In Salk Hall we have patient care and I’m constantly calling maintenance, and it’s not right. This is part of their job,” she said. “The ticket is a great idea, but there should be ongoing inspections, instead of us calling because there are deplorable conditions.”

Labeling maintenance issues an “ongoing concern” among faculty, Senate President Michael Spring said, “It’s not the first time I’ve heard it. I suspect it won’t be the last time, but I think there needs to be a mechanism for faster response,” he said, Referring the concerns to PUP, he told faculty, “I know that the registrar is more than concerned with hearing these complaints and addressing them. I don’t have any question that they will be receptive to you there. And I’m sure the same is true for Facilities Management.”

—Kimberly K. Barlow