Facilities Operations works overtime to correct surplus of dorm damages

Amid the excitement of arriving on campus for a fully in-person semester, some students were taken aback by the conditions of their rooms. From portions of plaster falling from ceilings to water damage, this year’s move-in was fraught with building damages due to a shortage of Facilities Operations staff during the summer months. As of now, Facilities Operations is working to resolve these issues.
On Aug. 26, four days before the start of the semester, Valerie Espinal Abreu ’23 moved into her suite in Main. She noted some water damage around her room and saw that some of the paint on the wall was chipped. However, Espinal Abreu was most confused about the bits of plaster scattered across the floor and reached out to Facilities Operations with her concerns. Facilities Operations responded to her initial outreach and came to clean the plaster and repair the damage on the walls.
Two days following Espinal Abreu’s arrival, her suitemate Elijah Appelson ’23 moved in earlier than he was initially planning. After opening the door to his room, Appelson saw that a portion of his ceiling had collapsed.
Appelson immediately emailed President Elizabeth Bradley about the issue. Within a couple of hours, Facilities Operations workers arrived at Appelson’s and Espinal Abreu’s residence to start their repairs.
While Facilities Operations was repairing the suite, Appelson, Espinal Abreu and their third suitemate were provided temporary housing in other Main rooms.
Despite the chaos, Appelson and Espinal Abreu were appreciative of the swift response from Facilities Operations. According to Appelson, “[Facilities Operations workers] worked really hard and they were so nice.” Espinal Abreu added, “They worked the weekends…even though they didn’t have to do that.”
As of Monday, Sept. 6, all three students have officially moved back into their suite.
Other residential houses on campus have also been grappling with facilities-related issues. Residents in the Lathrop annex complained about mold and water damage.
Director of Environmental, Health and Safety James P. Kelly and Coordinator of the Residential Operations Center Anna Belle Jones went to investigate the situation for themselves. In one of the rooms, they identified a discolored area of painted wood on the right side of a window sill and an area of the plaster ceiling that appeared to have damage from a water leak. They also found similar conditions in adjacent rooms. Upon investigating the rooms, Kelly and Jones hastily organized Facilities Operations staff to begin repairs.
Although Kelly does not believe that these situations are optimal, he emphasizes that these types of complaints are bound to occur. He stated, “Facilities Operations is responsible for approximately 2.5 million square feet of space, including administrative, academic and residential and all the infrastructure…I think that a certain minimal amount of damage, although certainly not desirable, is likely to happen.” He continued, “I think the real test is how efficiently and effectively does the College manage these conditions and return the spaces to proper, safe working condition.”
Executive Director of Facilities Operations William Peabody agreed with Kelly’s sentiments. “Facilities Operations takes great pride in delivering the best service to our students for all situations and due to unusual circumstances we fell short. Our top priority was to work with the students and Residential Life to correct the situation as quickly as possible.” Peabody explained that a majority of the rooms across campus were in good shape when Facilities Operations cleaned the rooms out after last semester. However, some of the usual midsummer and final check-ins did not occur due to staffing issues: “Unfortunately we had a significant staffing shortage at a critical time for dorm inspections due to COVID-19 tracing protocols and other health issues while we also had to reset the campus for full occupancy.”
Currently, the Facilities Operations department is communicating with students in affected spaces to help develop a plan of action that accommodates their comfort and schedules. The department is also working in collaboration with Residential Life to help relocate students whose rooms are being repaired, and the students will go back into their spaces immediately thereafter. According to Peabody, “Facilities Operations will have most of the repair issues complete by the end of next week, with exception to those students who choose to wait until October break for the work.”
To increase their capacity to respond to all requested services, Facilities Operations has added daily overtime to key departments. This is intended to extend their ability to accommodate regular start-of-school requests while simultaneously addressing unforeseen situations.
If more facilities-related issues do arise, Peabody recommended that students fill out a service request form. If there are further questions about options or processes, students can email the work control center at serviceresponse@vassar.edu.

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