When Hannah Larson turned on her faucet in South Hall to yellow water, she was reminded of plumbing problems last semester that resulted in the temporary relocation of South residents to escape the water and the smell.
“About a week ago, my roommates and I noticed the water from our dorm room faucets had a yellow tint. In addition, our toilets seemed to be having trouble functioning properly. I’ll spare you the details there,” Larson wrote in an email interview.
Naturally, Larson, a junior accounting major, and her suitemates filed a service request with the department of facilities services. But they were confused when the service request did not seem to have been fulfilled, despite an email that stated “completed.”
“My roommate submitted a service request in which she mentioned she had filled up her water bottle in the lounge, and the water had a yellow-brown tint. When she received a response email, there was nothing included under the ‘action taken’ section,” Larson said.
Facilities services is responsible for campus maintenance, from addressing plumbing and electrical issues to groundskeeping. Jim Baker, director of facilities services, explained Larson’s water situation.
“When a building is dormant, the water doesn’t have any flow from not being used. It will take 12 to 24 hours to clear usually once it starts being used again. We have hoses that we can run to clear the system, but usually it will work itself out,” Baker said. “It’s partly because of the age of the infrastructure.”
Larson amounted her issue to a simple lack of communication between residents and facilities services.
“The water is no longer discolored in the lounge or our bathroom. I think that action was probably taken but not communicated accurately,” Larson wrote. “Otherwise, my past experiences with facilities services have been nothing but positive. They are always very friendly and work super hard.”
Baker explained that his department is constantly responding to requests.
“We receive service calls all day, everyday. They are almost always small fixes, and we address and repair them on the same day, unless we have to order parts, but we keep normal materials on hand. It’s rare that we don’t respond on the same day,” Baker said during a phone interview.
Baker also explained that in areas like plumbing, small issues like a clogged drain can easily escalate to affect multiple rooms.
“Situations like plumbing can be complicated. A clogged drain can affect multiple rooms, so sometimes a small problem like that will appear bigger, and we have to track down the root of the problem,” Baker said. “For example, with the recent fluctuations in water temperature, we received about 15 to 20 calls. I can fix it at the central pump, but I still have to respond to each call individually to make sure it was fixed. I measure success based off of second requests, which we really try to avoid.”
Ari Fletcher-Bai, a sophomore human communication major and resident assistant in the Witt-Winn residence hall, has had an overall positive experience with facilities services.
“When I had a broken window, facilities services were there within a day, but when the whole building has no hot water, they don’t respond to individual requests until they’ve solved the larger issue. In general, though they’re pretty prompt,” Fletcher-Bai said.
However, Fletcher-Bai points out that there is more communication with regards to some projects over others.
“They told the freshmen when they were ordering a part so the showers were cold for another day. It seems pretty transparent. Maybe not for the Thomas elevators though,” Fletcher-Bai said.
Taylor Volzer, sophomore sociology major and resident of Thomas Hall, sustained an injury last semester that prevents her from using stairs. She explained in an email interview that while small service requests seem to be fulfilled promptly, bigger projects like elevator repairs appear to lack timeliness and transparency.
“With the residency requirements of living on campus for so long, I feel like there should be more communication on how to approach different situations. For example, if something minor breaks in a dorm room, we send in an email about it. But for larger things, are we responsible for sending these in as well?” Volzer wrote. “At one point last semester, both of the Thomas elevators were out of order and still nothing was acknowledged. For these instances, there were no alternatives for transportation or information about the status posted. I fully understand these things happen, but I wish we were more informed to what was going on since we live here.”
If students require the service of facilities services, email requests to email@example.com.