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Why can’t dorm elevators just work?

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Last October, Rhiley O’Rourke, a freshman in the College of Arts & Sciences, was riding the elevator with her grandmother in McCormick Hall when the car stopped in its tracks.

“I was stuck in there for twenty minutes with my grandma,” O’Rourke said. “She had just dropped me off, and we went out to lunch. I was supposed to go to my psych class, and the elevator just stopped working.”

O’Rourke’s story and complaints about elevator malfunctions are common among students in the residence halls.

Austin Davis, a sophomore in the College of Engineering, said the single elevator in McCabe Hall is out of service about once a week.

“It’s usually only out for a few hours,” Davis said. “But I live on the seventh floor, so walking up seven flights of stairs kind of sucks.”

To find the reason for all the student elevator struggles, the Tribune spoke with the man who has been charged with overseeing Marquette’s residence hall elevators for the past 26 years: Rick Arcuri, associate dean for administration in the Office of Residence Life.

“More often than not the elevators are down because of student misuse,” Arcuri said. “I mean if you get a light strip on the elevator ripped off and sitting at the front desk, it probably didn’t fall off on its own. We see a lot of that where people, especially late at night, are monkeying around in an elevator and cause some type of damage. Unfortunately we are at the mercy of the riders.”

This type of problem is typical for residence halls, making elevator outages in the dorms something most students have to face.

“Our elevators over time aren’t down any more than elevators in other residence halls,” Arcuri said.  “We actually benchmark ourselves against other people through our elevator companies and we end up lining up pretty well.”

The elevator company in charge of the residence halls, Otis, employs a technician who spends all day, every day maintaining and repairing Marquette’s residence hall elevators. The company records the number of times the technician works on an elevator outside of routine service, which they call “callbacks.”

Acuri said Marquette’s callbacks are on par with a school of our size.

Beyond damage done by students, Acuri said residence hall elevators can also have problems from a high frequency of use or age.

“Several of our elevators are older and you see more problems with an older elevator,” Arcuri said. “The equipment runs more slowly, people tend to be less patient with it so they bang on it or push it around and when you push on an elevator door, you’re going to break an elevator door. So we see higher callbacks in the buildings where we have older equipment.”

The Office of Residence Life plans to renovate two residence hall elevators this summer depending on budget constraints and is considering installing a second elevator in McCabe Hall.

“That would improve service in the other elevator too, because it will get less use and students will have to wait less,” Acuri said. “And it’s when students are waiting a long time, that’s when they really start to monkey around the most.”

As for instances of elevator entrapment like O’Rourke and her grandma, Arcuri said students should never try to escape from a stuck elevator.

“Say you get 15 people on an elevator and you decide to bounce up and down, you’re going to shut it off,” Acuri said. “Now you can’t get out. So you try to pry the doors open, but you break the doors when you pry them open. For us resetting the elevator to get it to run after someone is bouncing is easy, fixing the doors is expensive.”

There can also be risks to the riders if they try to take matters into their own hands.

“If it is between floors and you try to get out, you can fall into the shaft or if the elevator starts moving when you open the doors, you can get killed doing that. So your best bet is just to sit there until they come and open the door. It shouldn’t take long,” Arcuri said.

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1 Comment

One Response to “Why can’t dorm elevators just work?”

  1. Braden Bills on March 29th, 2017 8:50 am

    It’s too bad that so many elevators break down. It makes sense that you would want to have a professional fix them for you! It’s important that anyone using the building isn’t inconvenienced by them, after all.

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