Erin Papakostas ‘23
On move-in day this past August, Cathleen Krabak ‘23 experienced the first repair to her dorm room. “We noticed the black mold right when I moved in, so we told my hall counselor, and within ten minutes maintenance was there to fix it. They sterilized it, and cleaned the vent quickly so I could finish moving in.”
Throughout the year, students accrue many damages, and Davidson’s Physical Plant staff works around the clock to fix these damages and keep the campus running smoothly. Sharon Shipp, Superintendent of Building Services and Residence Halls, stated that the most frequent damages reported to her team are jammed toilet paper dispensers, holes in walls, or broken showerheads.
Kevin Anderson, Associate Director of Operations and Maintenance, stated, “A lot of [our problems] are heat problems or air conditioner problems. We have two guys full time who go around and repair door locks.” Anderson said his team often fixes broken blinds and glass or beer caps in garbage disposals. “We have somebody on call 24/7,” Anderson explained.
Sometimes, though, the damages are done on purpose. Anderson reported that two frequent acts of vandalism include exit signs ripped off and thermostats knocked off the walls of Patterson Court houses.
A few years back, some students were trying to tackle light posts. “Each one of those is close to about $2,000 to be replaced,” Anderson commented.
Shipp shared, “This year, we’ve been having to do a lot of carpet cleaning, from either throwing up or urinating.”
Laney Turnbull ‘23 was one of the unlucky few whose room in Cannon was victim to a stranger entering and urinating. “The school handled it very well and was very helpful. Initially, I reported the issue to my RA and then to Campus Police. Following that, I was able to get a new chair from RLO without having to pay for it.”
Anderson recounted some of the worst damages his team encountered over the years. “A couple of years ago, in Little, [students] were throwing something down the hallway and broke a sprinkler head in the hallway. It activated and flooded the whole third floor. We had to move everyone out that night,” Anderson shared.
He explained that after hour calls for repairs average about seven or eight calls a week. Shipp explained that calls after four p.m. are considered after hours, but a second shift with two employees work until 11:30 pm. Any call after that time goes to on-call personnel. On the weekends, Physical Plant gets four or five after hour calls.
Once, Shipp said, “The [employee] on call lived in Concord, and he got a call that there was a spill in the stairwell. Somebody had spilled sugar. He had to come 45 minutes, sweep up the sugar, and go back 45 minutes. So some of the calls, we try to ask them if it can wait till the next day.”
Walter Snipes, Director of Residence Life, explained that the normal wear and tear of a living space is not the responsibility of students to pay, but acts of vandalism are. For example, if a student puts a hole in the wall, for materials and labor, it might cost $200. The student then gets charged $200.
Leslie Urban, Director of Facilities Business and Property Management, commented, “We have an existing contract with Residence Life that they pay us monthly that covers general upkeep and regular maintenance.”
Snipes added, “Depending on how egregious the damage may be, we may eat some of the costs. So in the past, there have been damages that have been $1,200, but a student came up and said, ‘It was an accident.’ We will only charge $800 because we appreciated the student coming forward. The thing is we want you to learn, we want you to grow, and we want to work with you.”
Thomas Baker ‘23 received help promptly after reporting an electrical problem in his dorm. “Our automatic light switch started malfunctioning on a Saturday night and would not turn off. It was not a very fun night. We sent in an email Sunday morning, and by Monday around ten, someone came and installed an old-fashioned light switch.”
Students have a responsibility to report damages in a timely manner. “We would prefer it,” stated Shipp.
Before school lets out, Building Services and RLO does a walkthrough in the dorms.
“There is some stuff that doesn’t get seen until we find it at the end of the semester,” Shipp commented. “When you run across the issues that haven’t been reported, it just causes more work. A notification if something’s wrong is the best way to be.”
Anderson described the work in the summer to prepare the living spaces for the students. “In the summertime we do what we call our turnarounds. We go through making repairs: shower valves, shower heads, faucets on sinks. Every year we’ll pick a building that it’s been ten years since we repainted and then we’ll go in and do a full paint job. But every room is looked at and touched up, from normal wear and tear.”
Barbara Benson, Director of Building Services, explained that her department often deals with reports of biohazard incidents such as vomit and urination. Her team is called when someone gets sick in a common space. The policy is, Benson said, “if you do it in your own room, that’s your problem.”
Benson shared a difficult problem her department sometimes encounters: doors pulled off their hinges. This issue is hard to fix because doing so also damages the frame.
“Occasionally, we get some weird things,” Benson commented. “When students get stressed out, they start doing some things like stuffing the toilets with toilet paper.” Benson said these reports only happen during exams and have tapered off the last few years.
Benson described another strange incident when “Somebody decided to take a syrup bottle and pour the whole thing in the lounge carpet, and sugary things are really hard to get out.”
“First semester freshmen are great. Then they go home and see their old friends and share war stories. They come back and then we see rise in their behavior. You just have your good group and your bad group. I would say two thirds are good. But you have that one third in each class where trouble finds them.”