When I first moved into Thurston Hall at the beginning of freshman year, I didn’t think I would hear about FixIt repair requests often. Obviously some students encounter repair issues, but I assumed keeping residence halls clean and running smoothly would be relatively simple. Now that I’m almost done with my first year at GW, I’ve realized that not only is FixIt a constantly utilized resource, it’s an imperfect system.
A month after I moved into Thurston Hall, I filed a FixIt request because the fuse in my room blew and my three roommates and I lost power in every outlet. Unsure of what constituted a Facilities Services emergency, I called the FixIt helpline and was told that my request was classified as an “emergency” and was guaranteed that the problem would be addressed within 24 hours. The FixIt electrician came two and half days later. Those few days were uncomfortable, our food came close to spoiling and we couldn’t do work in our room at night. But in comparison to what I’ve seen other people go through with issues like plumbing and mold problems, my experience seems pretty tolerable.
Although FixIt can’t be blamed for not being able to get to every emergency within a day, there are steps GW should take to streamline the maintenance system. When students file FixIt requests, they should be able to send the form directly to the type of worker who would handle their specific issue – such as an electrician or a plumber.
GW students have shown their discontent with the FixIt system in the past. Students have expressed concern about mold and fungus in their bathrooms, claiming that maintenance crews were dismissive of their pleas for repair. Munson Hall rooms had issues with cockroach infestations that students claim were not handled properly, forcing them to relocate to other residence halls. Issues with the FixIt system have even contributed to potential lawsuits, when a student suffered from severe allergies caused by a pigeon’s nest in the vents in her room in Munson Hall.
Currently, the FixIt system works by a student submitting a request through the facilities website. Then the ticket is received by the Division of Operations, which reviews the request and delegates it to a specialist. Instead of this chain communication system, students should be able to forward their FixIt requests directly to the maintenance workers who will respond to their call. This will cut down the time in between the FixIt request being filed and the crew member response. The majority of requests are taken care of within eight days, and if the issue is an emergency – which FixIt defines as “a problem that will jeopardize a person’s safety, cause damage or loss of property or will significantly disrupt regular University activities” – then the student can call the FixIt helpline and that issue is supposed to be resolved within 24 hours.
Due to the conditions of our older residence halls and likely limited maintenance staff, students shouldn’t expect that the wait times we’re told are exact. Some of that time could be eliminated if the second step of the process were done by the students. Requests that require a professional technician, carpenter or plumber should be submitted by students directly to that staff person, instead of applying on the general FixIt form and being sorted the same way as all the other non-emergency FixIt requests. Instead of having the operations division delegate requests, they could simply approve of a student’s appeal to a specific maintenance crew member in the request before sending someone out to fix it. The service team would likely agree that a power outage should be sent to a technician, but in a case where the student makes a mistake about their issue, the team could make the appropriate changes and forward the form to the correct maintenance worker.
GW’s current method for responding to maintenance requests is common at many universities. For example, Pennsylvania State, New York and Georgetown universities all offer the same online form for filing repair requests. Students at Georgetown University have faced similar problems with the need for repair and maintenance in residence halls for issues like leaks, rodents and perpetually ignored work orders. From my experience at GW and the similar sentiments of Georgetown students, this combination of a high volume of repair requests and an inefficient response process calls for a different reporting method. Having older and highly populated residence halls like Thurston, JBKO and Munson halls – which need serious renovations to begin with – can lead to complicated FixIt requests that the operations team must sort through all at one time, which results in longer wait times.
In response to the continued problems with the FixIt system, the University has not made changes to the process itself but rather focused on decreasing the volume of requests sent in by students. Officials have provided self-help tips and guides on the FixIt website to try and limit how many students submit unnecessary FixIt requests. Officials have argued that many students file FixIt requests for problems they can solve themselves, like a clogged toilet. But serious maintenance requests, like mold and blown fuses, can’t be fixed with a “how-to” guide.
FixIt’s problem could be that there are too many FixIt requests filed for the maintenance crews to realistically respond in eight days or less – or 24 hours for emergencies. But if students were allowed to reach out directly to the person that can help them, it could shorten the wait time and improve the system.
Rachel Armany, a freshman majoring in journalism, is a Hatchet opinions writer.
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