Icy sidewalks, broken heaters and leaky ceilings are only a few of the approximately 4,000 problems students have reported to University of Rhode Island Facilities Services so far this year.
While there is work to be done all over campus, residence halls always take first priority according to Bonnie Jacob, Coordinator of Facilities Services.
“Residence Halls are more important than any other buildings on campus because students are living there 24/7,” Jacob said. “We really are here for the students and it’s our priority to keep them happy.”
But this winter’s cold temperatures and endless snow have left some Burnside Hall residents less than satisfied with the work done by Facilities Services.
“I lived in my room without a working heater for two weeks,” said one student who asked to remain anonymous.
This student’s heater stopped working a few days before January’s big blizzard, and was not properly fixed until two weeks later when URI was hit with several more snowstorms and below freezing temperatures.
When the student’s RA went to his room to investigate the situation, the two discovered that the temperature was in the upper fifties. The RA then submitted a work order to Facilities Services via an online system that only RAs have access to.
“The RAs usually keep checking the work orders for updates to inform the student of when the issue will be resolved,” Jacob said. “If they don’t see things moving along quickly enough, they can call us, and the work order will be brought to our attention again.”
“My RA told me that he was constantly reminding Facilities Services staff to fix the heat, but it still took a long time,” the student said. “I was pretty cold, even with the space heater.”
This student is not the only one to suffer from extreme winter weather. sophomore Lizz Malloy’s balcony room in Burnside Hall was so cold during the blizzard that Housing offered her temporary housing elsewhere.
“Snow actually came into my room during the blizzard. [Facilities Services] sent someone to seal my balcony door, which helped a little, but the room was 44 degrees at its coldest,” she said. “Housing was eager to help, and were very distraught about the situation. They offered temporary housing and space heaters to those who needed it.”
Although this winter has been particularly hard on Burnside residents, last winter was no different according to Brynn Pignataro, who also spent her sophomore year in Burnside Hall.
“My dorm was one of the balcony rooms and it was freezing during the winter,” she said. “Our screen door was completely off the tracks, so we couldn’t use it. We filled out a work order to get it fixed in the beginning of the year and it never happened.”
Jacob explained that most students get frustrated with Facilities Services because it can take up to 30 days to complete general repairs such as nonfunctioning light switches or broken furniture. However, they said they handle emergency cases, anything that is threatening to the student’s life, within three days. This category of repairs includes broken heaters in the winter, broken fire exit signs and bees.
She also pointed out that the older buildings, like Burnside, are the most susceptible to heating problems.
“Unfortunately, the balcony rooms are always cold during the winter,” she said.
Although it is unclear why some students were without heat for so long, Jacob gave several reasons for a delayed response by Facilities Services.
“I would have to know the specific work order number to determine exactly what happened, but in most cases we are delayed because maintenance staff are either waiting for a part to come in, still troubleshooting about the problem or working around a vendor’s availability,” she said.
Jacob also suggested that there is often a miscommunication between students and RAs that contributes to problems going unresolved.
“I’m not going to say we’re not at fault sometimes, but occasionally students assume their RA has put the work order through and doesn’t follow up with them to make sure,” she said. “I’m not trying to put the blame on anyone. If a student is worried that nothing is being done they should call us and we’ll take care of it.”
Malloy is grateful for the way Housing and Facilities Services came to her aid during the blizzard and thinks that the real source of problems is how old some of the residence halls are.
“These buildings are clearly old and outdated and no longer protect from the elements,” said Malloy. “No one should live in these conditions for the amount of money they’re spending.”