Elevator malfunctions create accessibility issues on campus

November 20, 2014

This semester, a number of elevator malfunctions and delays throughout campus have caused students to raise concerns about university accessibility and convenience.

One of the two elevators in Darnall Hall broke down twice this past week for over 48 hours each time, and only one is currently operating. Darnall consists of six floors, and over 200 students travel by elevators daily. The staircase next to the elevators doesn’t allow access to the basement level, where laundry machines and dryers are located.

On Nov. 10, Darnall Hall resident Sara Natour (COL ’18) found herself stuck in the malfunctioning elevator with two other students. “We were locked inside for roughly 10 minutes,” wrote Natour in an email to the Voice. “In panic, we tried pressing the ‘help’ and ‘open door’ buttons, but the elevator was still frozen—the ‘help’ button appeared to be jammed. We desperately tried to reach the RA on duty to ask for guidance. While waiting, the elevator jerked upward toward the other floors. We found this matter to be both inconvenient and frustrating.”

Four days later, Kyle Ashby (COL ‘18), another Darnall resident, said her roommate got stuck in the malfunctioning Darnall elevator, and two hours later, so did Ashby. “I was riding up to the sixth floor with one other person, and when it got to the sixth floor, the elevator started shaking a little bit and then nothing happened,” said Ashby. “We were in there for about 20 minutes. The lights were on, but all of the buttons didn’t work except for the emergency button.”

The emergency button dialed the GUPD office, from which the campus police came to open the elevator doors. “I think it’s an inconvenience to us as well as the GUPD because within the two hour time span, they had to come to Darnall twice to do the same thing,” said Ashby. “He made a comment about not getting back in the elevator, because he didn’t want to come back and have to go through the whole situation again that night.”

The issue of elevator malfunctions extends throughout dormitories on campus. In Harbin, which consists of nine floors, one of the two elevators is also currently out of operation. On Nov. 4, residents of Village C East, another nine-floor residence hall, received an email from the Office of Residential Living informing tenants that an elevator outage in their building will not be repaired until after Thanksgiving.

“As you have probably realized, an elevator in Village C East is out. An inspection revealed a deficiency that must be rectified before the elevator can become operational,” the Office of Residential Living wrote in the email. “Unfortunately the part that must be replaced will take a fair amount of time to procure, and Facilities anticipates that the repairs won’t be complete until after Thanksgiving break.”

In the New South Residence Hall, one of the elevators was stopped for an inspection on Nov. 13, preventing students from using it. While the two existent elevators are currently in operation, one of the hall’s residents, Jonathan Marrow (COL ’18), shared that they are not without flaws.

“New South elevators have been under maintenance more than three times. Just the other day, one elevator was out of commission for over 24 hours,” wrote Marrow in an email to the Voice. “More than once the elevator has just froze on a certain floor, and I’ve waited inside for a minute without the doors closing. Getting scared that it will shut down, I’ve taken the stairs. It hasn’t been an uncommon experience to see GUPD [or] facilities staff in front of the elevator.”

GUSA Secretary for Disability Affairs Lydia Brown (COL ’15) addressed the effect of elevator malfunctions on the disabled community. “As mentioned in the Voice [editorial] last week, back in September, both of the elevators in Copley broke down at the same time. This was particularly egregious because every student with a physical disability who lives on campus is housed in Copley Hall,” she said. “All the disabled students in Copley had to be moved to New South for that night—that’s unacceptable.”

Brown also recalled an instance earlier this month in which the elevator in Walsh broke for a week, citing it as another example of “the pervasive issues with construction and facilities on campus.” Academic buildings, such as Walsh, consist of fewer floors compared to residence halls, however, faculty members, students, and other university-affiliated persons use the elevators to travel everyday.

“In Walsh, Lau, and Leavey, the elevators are not even leveled with the floor when you get in and out. Depending on the specific kind of mobility aid that you use, you might not be able to get in or out of the elevator,” said Brown. “I have had multiple experiences repeatedly with the Office of Planning Facilities where they say they will make note of the issue. I call again a couple days later to find the same response.”

In New North, a paper sign in the elevator says, “This elevator tends to get stuck. Until the university fixes the elevator, please take care to press the CENTER of the button (some of the buttons will not light up). Pressing the SIDE of the button can cause the elevator to malfunction.”

GUSA Secretary of Student Space Connor Maytnier (COL ‘17) responded to the complaints of elevator outage on campus. “I am aware that a general sentiment of dissatisfaction with campus elevators exists among students,” wrote Maytnier in an email to the Voice. “Replacing elevators is certainly a costly project. However, a rapid and effective response for elevator maintenance is a reasonable expectation for us as students to have. It is important to remember that many of our fellow Hoyas rely on elevators and that for some, using stairs is not a possible option.”

Photo by Elena Plenefisch

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