Students stuck with elevator issues

Residents of USF’s new Juniper-Poplar Residence Hall may be using the stairs more often, as elevators in the $65-million building have been malfunctioning this semester.

Since Sept. 1, Juniper-Poplar residents have made seven calls to University Police (UP) to report jammed elevators, said UP spokeswoman Lt. Meg Ross.

There are six elevators in the residence hall, and there have been a total of nine “elevator failures that resulted in the elevator being down for a while,” Kelly Best, associate director of Facilities and Maintenance for Housing and Residential Education, said in an e-mail.

Best said three of those failures involved “entrapment of riders.”

USF undergraduate student Matt Milk was trapped in one of the elevators for 45 minutes.

“I’m claustrophobic, so I started to get worried,” said Milk, a freshman majoring in engineering. “It started getting hot.”

The elevator suddenly “just started working” again, Milk said. He walked out and didn’t report the problem.

UP receives all elevator calls and then transfers them to AlliedBarton, a company that provides on-campus security services, Ross said.

AlliedBarton has key access to campus elevators which allows security personnel to open jammed elevator doors, Ross said. AlliedBarton also posts “Out of Order” signs if the elevators are not working.

Students are typically out within 10 to 15 minutes of a call for help, said an AlliedBarton officer, who wished to remain anonymous for fear of his on-campus job

“Initially, it took longer because no one was familiar with the new technology,” the sergeant said. “A lot of the problems with the elevators are happening because they are so complicated.”

He said that although elevator problems are a common occurrence, elevators in Juniper-Poplar have been malfunctioning “several times a week,” significantly more often than those elsewhere on campus.

When an elevator gets stuck, it may be out of service for an extended period of time, the sergeant said.

Marlena Szczesniewicz, a freshman majoring in architecture, said the elevators are frequently out of service.

“At one point, all three elevators in Juniper weren’t working for an entire day,” Szczesniewicz said.

She said the elevators have had other problems besides getting stuck.

“When you go higher up, they make this loud whirring sound,” Szczesniewicz said.

The elevator lights occasionally “don’t work,” said Melissa McGlory, a freshman majoring in mass communications.

The sergeant said the west elevator in Juniper – the first elevator that AlliedBarton ever responded to – is still out of service after getting stuck even before freshmen moved in this semester.

The elevators are under warranty for a year, so there is no cost for the University to make repairs, Best said.

“It appears (an elevator) has been down virtually the entire time that the hall has been open and is awaiting a new motor,” he said. “Each time there is a problem the elevator installer, Oracle, has been called out to make repairs.”

Best said it is better if the building is not under warranty, because the University can choose their own repair company. However, under the warranty, the school has to use Oracle – the choice of the contractors who built Juniper-Poplar.

Juniper-Poplar opened Aug.19. The hall consists of two seven-story towers and has 1,050 beds.

The Juniper tower houses First Time In College (FTIC) students. The Poplar tower houses FTIC and Living Learning Communities, groups of students with the same major or academic interests.

Kristina Placeres, a freshman with undeclared major, said she has also heard noises from the elevators.

“When you go above the fourth floor, the elevators make a horrible screeching sound,” she said. “Sometimes I feel uncomfortable.”