Tales from the loo
By: Chiemela Igbokwe | Published April 28, 2016
You’re a student here at Kean University, you walk into a men’s room in Townsend Hall and in the first stall, the entire toilet is covered with a black garbage bag with a sign over it reading “Out of Order Sorry.”
You move on to the next stall, no garbage bag, but the stall doesn’t lock and overhead you see a discolored, decaying ceiling just above your head. You finish at the soap dispenser, which is empty, and four of the five faucets don’t work. Finally you reach for the paper towel dispenser, which is also empty.
That description is just one of eight that Tower reporters found after hearing anecdotal complaints from male and female students that the facilities around the campus are not being maintained.
Reporters visited the restrooms in the following buildings: Hutchinson, Kean Hall, Townsend, CAS, Green Lane, Willis, Hennings and Harwood Arena during two weeks in April.
The reporters found that not all buildings seem to be treated equally in terms of maintenance. Generally, the reporters found good conditions in Kean Hall, Green Lane and, for the most part, Harwood Arena.
The other buildings didn’t fare so well.
The most common infractions were lack of soap and paper towels, non-locking stalls and faucets that don’t work.
Townsend ranked No. 1 on the list for worst conditions, and was the only spot check that had a decayed ceiling, broken toilet and a urinal without a handle.
The Tower also reached out to the university for comment regarding the maintenance issues.
“The Office of Facilities and Campus Planning is responsible for the maintenance and repair of the restrooms,” said University Spokeswoman Margaret McCorry in an email. “Work is prioritized based on the urgency of the request – for example, a flooding or overflowing fixture will be considered a top priority. Once the emergency situation is contained, the work is scheduled through our work order system. If parts are needed, they are ordered and repairs are made when the parts are received.”
McCorry also asked for the cooperation of everyone in the Kean community “to keep our facilities in top condition.”
“To report a problem in one of the restrooms,” she added, “call the Facilities Main Line at 908-737-5000 or complete an on-line work order request at the Facilities and Campus Planning webpage.”
Here’s the report on the rest of the buildings checked by our reporters:
At Kean Hall: Working faucets, filled towel dispensers, one stall that does not lock.
Harwood Arena Main first floor women’s bathroom: 15 working sinks, manual paper towel dispensers, one not filled, one sensor paper towel dispenser works, nine pump soap dispensers filled, 20 stalls, of which four have faulty locks.
Willis third floor women’s bathroom: four stalls, all had toilet paper and locks that worked, one quarter of sinks worked, two soap dispensers worked, and one paper towel dispenser worked.
Hutchinson first floor women’s bathroom: Black bag that covers one of the sinks.
Green Lane Building: All the bathrooms in the Green Lane Building were fully stocked and cleaned except for one bathroom on the fourth floor that was missing a coat hanger.
One maintenance worker who agreed to speak on condition of anonymity to protect their job said cleaning Kean buildings is an “almost impossible job” because are not enough workers assigned to clean the buildings.
The worker said sometimes they will skip an area just to get done.
“There just aren’t enough hours in the day to get to every bathroom and classroom and make sure they’re cleaned properly and thoroughly, “ the worker said.
The worker said maintenance people are required to report anything not working in a rest room to a supervisor. The maintenance workers are not tasked with fixing broken facilities, the worker said.
Last year, Kean’s Board of Trustees voted to outsource its custodians and maintenance workers to a company called GCA in order to save money. Maintenance workers are no longer employees of Kean, but instead work for its contractor.
Steve Pinto, the president of the International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers, said the workers were part of his union, but were laid off when Kean outsourced. He said some of the workers applied to GCA and were re-hired. He said the state work is required to pay “a prevailing wage which in this case is $15.70 per hour,” but one worker said the hourly pay was several dollars less an hour. Also, the benefits are less.
Pinto said he couldn’t comment on current morale of maintenance workers because he no longer represents them because they are no longer unionized. However, when asked, he said the morale of the workers was good when they worked for Kean.
“When we had our own people they’re morale was always upbeat, there was a sense of community, a sense of being part of the Kean family, and our people took pride in their work,” Pinto said. “It was comprised of people who lived in the community, as well as people who had relatives who attended Kean.”
Pinto did say that some of the appliances such as soap and paper towel dispensers are a simple task to fix in terms of replenishing. Many of the soap dispensers only need new batteries.
Other tasks such as clogged toilets will be fixed, but it can be hard to get it done immediately as Kean only has two plumbers to work the entire campus.
Sara Ridgway, Annalise Knudson, Anthony Muccigrossi, Rose Marie Kitchen, Nicole Brown, Gail Fredricks contributed to this story.