Both elevators in the Henderson Learning Center building temporarily ceased to function last week, forcing Dallas Hathaway, a student in a wheelchair, to crawl down the second-story flight of stairs while fellow students assisted by carrying his power chair down to the main level.
Hathaway expressed great concern over the elevators’ functionality, as the incident last week was the second time that he has dealt with the issue.
“To be honest, I felt like I didn’t matter at that point to the university, because [they] on multiple occasions haven’t taken the time to make sure that the elevator is in working condition, obviously, because it’s broken multiple times,” Hathaway said. “Being a 4.0 student, it’s hard for me to understand how I matter to the university when things like this continue to happen on a regular basis.’
Hathaway said that it greatly bothers him that this kind of a situation has reocurred in light of a previous incident.
“It happened my very first semester as well…. They were forced to call the fire department to carry my chair down,” Hathaway said.
Edward Wiss, assistant director in maintenance for the campus, commented on the technology used in the Henderson elevators compared to those in newer buildings on campus.
“We’ve had heavier usage of the elevator three or four times this year,” Wiss said. “It causes the oil cooler to overheat in elevators that use a hydraulic pump versus those that use cables.”
Wiss explained that the newer buildings use cable elevators, while the older buildings use hydraulic pump elevators. Performing repairs on hydraulic pump elevators is much more difficult than on cable elevators.
“The hydraulic pump runs four stories underground and is hard to get to, to replace parts,” Wiss said.
Patrick Early, director of university relations, explained that the university is attempting to accommodate for the problems caused by the older elevators.
“Right now facilities services is determining the extent of the work that needs to be done on the elevator in order to increase reliability,” Early said. “This issue will be brought up at the April board meeting to assess what we need to do about it. In order for the elevator in the meantime to work, they are installing new cooling pumps on the main elevator to avoid more trouble in the future.”
Early said that the university is trying to react as quickly as possible to elevator problems like those in Henderson. He also pointed out that in the past, the university has moved classes to the first floor of a building to alleviate problems with elevators for students.
“I think having classes on the first floor would be helpful, for sure,” Hathaway said. “I know it’s hard to do that [with class sizes]. I understand that there’s problems. It would make me not have to use the elevator as much, but it would not take away the fact that the elevator needs to be repaired as incidents happen. I know for a fact it’s not just disabled people that use the elevator – it’s various populations on campus, whether it’s people with sports injuries or professors.”
Hathaway said that he personally would like to see more preventative action rather than reactive, alluding to what could happen if a fire or emergency took place while the elevator was out.
“I would like to see maybe some kind of an evacuation plan put in place,” Hathaway said. “You know, I don’t really know what they would do. I don’t know what I would do in that case. I would probably do just what I did the last time. The Henderson elevator is the only elevator in my entire life, out of the thousands of elevators I’ve been on, that has ever given me any trouble. I have never been trapped before, and this is the only one that has ever given me problems, and sadly it has been on multiple occasions.”
Lisa Herdman contributed to this report.