Buildings and Grounds should be more readily accessible

By Kennedy Thomason

Elm Staff Writer

As an institution that prioritizes students living on campus, Washington College should strive to provide easy access to the residential maintenance resources that the Buildings and Grounds department is tasked with providing.

Unfortunately, it seems the ball is consistently being dropped. But who is to blame?

WC’s Buildings and Grounds department is not meeting students’ needs and is fostering a feeling of distrust among students. In the process, what were once small hiccups are turning into large safety hazards. One student reported that she has put in at least three online maintenance requests since this past September for her bathroom ventilation fan, and because it has yet to be fixed, spots of mold and mildew are sprouting. Her experience with B&G is simply: “they ignored me.”

Another student had their dad come and fix her clogged drain after being effectively ghosted by B&G, taking matters into her own hands and getting supplies from the hardware store to finish the job themselves. I have to wonder how that dad felt after being forced to remedy this situation — a situation that the College he entrusted with his daughter’s wellbeing failed to cover. Not to mention the cost of room and board, paid by the students and their families, includes access to maintenance needs, an asset that it seems is not provided. 

These are just two examples of the unresponsive nature of B&G in the eyes of students. According to senior Sheridan Smith, “the response time is slow.”

Senior Paige Dauplaise commented that online maintenance requests seem to get ignored, but calls yield much faster results. Dauplaise calls right from the get-go. When she recommended this method to her roommate, who hadn’t gotten a response to her online request in a month, B&G was there in a jiffy.

This should not be the case. If a point of contact via an online portal is advertised to the student body, it should not take multiple tries or different avenues such as phone calls to get a response.

But why is this happening? Students say they have noticed that most, if not all, of their maintenance issues are being fixed by one man. They stated that they appreciate his efforts and they feel sorry that he is so bogged down by requests. It is obvious to students that more staff members are needed to alleviate the demands of hundreds of residential undergraduates.

The question of whether inadequate staffing was causing these delays was posed to staff members, including Administrative Office Coordinator of Buildings and Grounds and Facilities Barbara Jones and Assistant Vice President of Facilities Stan Yeakel. Each of these staff members replied with a corporate, canned response: they would have to speak with their respective “teams” and draft answers to my questions. However, emails to other staff members involved with Buildings and Grounds were ironically left unanswered.

After answering clarifying questions and providing more detail regarding students’ the two aforementioned staff members did not provide substantive responses. Whether this was simply an oversight, a scheduling issue, or a lack of available time to reply to a student is unknown. So far, it looks as if B&G is sticking to their hard-to-get reputation.

In the meantime, students are coming up with their own ideas on how B&G could improve. Some, such as senior Kedrick Frink, have suggested that maintenance workers should adopt better communication methods when it comes to fixing issues in residence areas. His gripe is that once someone from B&G finally shows, they are “not able to fix the issue immediately or have to come back multiple times…they leave a note but don’t say when it is going to get resolved.”

Junior Maeve Diemer says that she would love to see a way to request a time for maintenance workers to commit to when working in students’ private quarters: “They tend to come when I am not there.” This ambiguity is anxiety-inducing for some, who do not necessarily want strangers popping in and out without warning.

This culture of allowing students to feel ignored and remaining uncommunicative about following through with maintenance requests is troubling. Students at WC deserve better, especially considering the extremely limited off-campus housing policy that WC enforces and the price tag that comes with living on campus.

Elm Archive Photo

Photo caption: Maintenance at the College is often an uncertain conversation.

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