Students Report Better Communication from Facilities, but Still Have Unaddressed Concerns
By Gauri Mangala, News Editor
Last spring, the Gettysburg College campus was consumed by an outbreak of mold throughout Hanson Hall, a first-year residence hall, which exposed a variety of frustrations among students with the response of Facilities Services to maintenance issues across campus. In that aftermath of the outbreak, the college commissioned a task force to address the communication issues students identified. This fall, with excessive rain and extreme humidity, Facilities Services has once again been subject to scrutiny in their response to water damage in academic buildings like Plank Gym and the Eisenhower Institute as well as to issues in college housing. Student Senate President Nick Arbaugh ’20, who was among the most vocal senators last spring in denouncing the work of Facilities Services, said that, on the whole, improvements seem to have been made.
“It’s a good question. It’s one that people continually ask, you know, ‘Is facilities doing what they’re supposed to be doing?’, given the tough time we had last year,” Arbaugh said. “ I would say I have heard a lot of complaints of students about a varying amount of issues whether that be housing related or mold related. At the same time I have heard a lot of people tell me that facilities is getting out there. At least in my discussion with the administration about some serious cases, they’ve said that they are very aware of it and there seems to be a lot of communication at these upper level cases. They seem to getting out and fixing things with more gusto than last year. From what I can see, as limited a perspective as that is, it does seem to be a serious improvement from where we were last year.”
James Biesecker, the Executive Director of Facilities Planning & Management is confident that facilities has been on top of all matters, especially those of flooding in the last few weeks. In regards to the flooding in Plank Gym, Biesecker explained, “The water issues in the north end of Plank existed before the work began on the College Union Building. The issue stems from water coming in through the foundation of the building. It doesn’t happen with every rainfall but with the ground being so saturated lately the frequency has increased. Repairs and waterproofing of the foundation will take place with renovations to occur in Plank Gym. In the meantime, we have been working to permanently relocate the office and program that have been impacted by the water.”
A few weeks back, murmurs of recurrences of mold, this time white mold, in Hanson, circulated and landed at the feet of the Student Senate executive board.
“We had received a report from one or two students from the basement that there was some mold on their property and there was some mold on dorm rooms and furniture. So we went down and we checked it out and saw some pictures,” Arbaugh said. “Especially in that specific case, they were aware of it, they were taking steps to rectify it, they were having people go in there and check the mold…To the best of my knowledge, the situation has been nipped in the butt.”
Many students, especially those living in college houses (i.e. theme houses) have experienced a lack of communication with facilities. Humor House, a leased house at 25 S. Washington Street has been facing an issue with a squirrel stuck in the walls. “Facilities told us that there was nothing they could do about a squirrel in the wall,” explained Nikoleta Mountanos ‘19, house leader of Humor House. “Which seems silly to me; is a squirrel smarter than all of facilities? I hope not. But luckily, they started trying to free it as soon as Student Senate heard about it.”
In the case of Humor House, and of any other rented housing buildings, the landlord of the property is in charge of taking care of issues, like the holes in the walls that led to the squirrel; however, facilities is in charge of overseeing the situation and communicating to students what is happening.
“I do think that facilities wants to be there for us. I really do. However, there is no feasible way for every problem to be solved by them without the proper resources; and the college has provided them with it,” stated Mountanos.
In contrast, other theme houses have experienced considerable speed with facilities. “We haven’t had too many problems with them,” said Rose Martus ‘19, house leader of the Blue Note Jazz House located at Lau House on N. Washington Street. “Our front door started to stick because of the humidity and they came in the day after the request to fix it, and it no longer stuck. At another point in the beginning of the semester, our AC unit broke, and our house boiled. They came in the next day and put temporary units in the rooms affected. However, this was about a month ago, and they still have yet to fix the real problem. I put in a second request to have the real AC fixed, but still nothing.”
Biesecker and Arbaugh both urge students to send in facilities requests and come to Student Senate in order to make sure matters get handled promptly. In the next few weeks, facilities hopes to roll out signs around campus with a QR code that links students to the work order system for greater ease of access to communication. “We hope that [we can] keep that line of communication open,” said Biesecker. “And whether that’s working with Senate or communicating with Senate, anything we can do to respond best to the students.”