November 23, 2004

Conditions deter students from needed sanitary breaks

Bathrooms at the Regenstein library underwent remodeling this summer and fall, but their new look is sometimes marred by unsanitary conditions.

Reports from students on the cleanliness of restrooms vary from highly positive to negativeĀ—sometimes in reference to the same bathroom.

"The [A-level] bathroom is usually clean, but sometimes the stacks bathrooms are dirty," said Laurence Ralph, a graduate student in anthropology.

Other students voiced the opposite reaction. Mine Demirdogen, a fourth-year in the College, recalled the A-level bathroom as often being unusable, while Sam Jacobson, also a fourth-year in the College, said he enjoys using the stacks bathrooms, which he called "always immaculate."

The cleaning schedule may be responsible for the source of disagreement, according John Pitcher, Facilities Manager at the Regenstein. The Reg is cleaned between 11 p.m. and 7 a.m. every day, Pitcher said. Outside of those times, there is one staff member that does cosmetic clean up and replaces toilet paper and paper towels. If people use the bathrooms in the evening or early morning, it is possible that they have become somewhat dirty, as they may not have been cleaned for nearly a day.

Aside from general use, Pitcher said he couldn't think of much of an explanation for student complaints. Although Pitcher admitted that vandalism could play a role, he downplayed its significance. "There's not a great deal of mischief," he said. "There's graffiti from time to time [and] occasionally clogged toilets where you're not sure if it was done on purpose."

Pitcher noted that there appears to be a pattern of clogged toilets in the second floor stacks bathroom, though he wasn't sure if mischievous students or a lack of water pressure caused the problem.

One option for University departments that deal with high traffic bathrooms is more frequent or more thorough cleaning, according to James Vaughan, assistant director for access and facilities services at the Reg. "The University has basic cleaning standards," Vaughan said, referring to a university contract with American Building Maintenance (ABM).

"Individual units can pay out of their own budgets to have additional cleaning done," Vaughan said. "However, the library tries to spend its money on books and computers, so extra bathroom cleaning would reduce that budget."

Vaughan speculated that the renovation of the main bathrooms on the 3rd, 4th, and 5th floors at the beginning of the year might have caused higher traffic in other bathrooms, contributing to problems with cleanliness. However, he said, "The remodeling of the existing bathrooms [. . .] is completed. They were open on Wednesday, October 20th."

The remodeled bathrooms are not without complaints. Nicole Voelkel, a fourth-year in the College, said she was bothered by the apparently malfunctioning automatic flush mechanisms on the new toilets. Noting that the toilets flush unexpectedly while in use, she said she is "highly disturbed by the automatic flushing system. It's really gross because they're so powerful that the water spurts up at you."

In general, however, students were positive about the new bathrooms. Ralph said that the new bathrooms seem very clean. The exceptions to this rule observed by the student population almost all appear to be cases of purposeful destruction.

Vaughan's response to this observation was measured. "It's hard to imagine, but sometimes people do things maliciously," he said.