Our maintenance series continues with a closer look at the problems and repairs behind the Student Campus Centre, one of the youngest buildings on campus. Tamara Jones reports
The water fountain on the second floor of the Student Campus Centre (SCC) leaks, causing the floor to heave and wrinkle from water damage. Another fountain in the basement doesn’t work at all. A staircase leaks when it rains, forming a puddle.
Although the six-year-old building is one of Ryerson’s newest spaces, it is riddled with maintenance issues.
Students who frequent the SCC have been adapting to the minor problems, but some say maintenance are ignoring them. Elijah Mark, a third-year hospitality and tourism student, said a light in the basement lounge area has malfunctioned and can’t be turned off.
“They haven’t done a thing,” Mark said, adding that the light has been on for two years.
Another issue in the basement is that a number of the outlets are broken and have required repair for more than a year. Mark said he notified SCC maintenance staff but nothing has been done.
“It’s annoying because they’re unresponsive,” said Mark.
Eric Newstadt, the building’s general manager, said the fact that some problems have not been addressed doesn’t mean staff isn’t listening.
“When we are notified of a problem in the SCC, it’s ticketed and prioritized,” he said.
Newstadt explained that the SCC has a complete catalogue of all the equipment in the building and when a report of a problem is received, its importance is evaluated using the catalogue’s hierarchy. If an issue is listed as vital to the upkeep of the building, it is fixed more rapidly than if it is classified as unimportant.
He added that all of the items are regularly maintained on a set schedule and the SCC conducts “regular building audits on an ongoing basis.”
Even with audits, the building still faces pressing issues that have not been addressed. An emergency button at the rear of the building, which has remained broken for more than a year. Newstadt said the button is out of the jurisdiction of SCC maintenance workers. The button is a Campus Facilities and Sustainability (CFS) responsibility.
Adrian Williams, manager of custodial services, asked if anyone had reported it. He said it’s hard for them to keep track of all repairs on an estimated four million square feet of campus.
Repairs can sometimes be delayed because each maintenance crew must go through CFS in order to correct problems in the building.
Newstadt said it’s helpful to have the aid of CFS. “Their expertise helps us get things done properly and quickly.”
A few years ago, the SCC had a moderate amount of backlog but, since then, they have become “current” in their maintenance, according to Newstadt. Now, most repairs get done within days, he said. “We’re pretty rapid about fixing things.”
When issues are not fixed, it is partially due to the fact that some major maintenance projects require the building to be vacant, which means that they must be tackled during the summer break.
“It’s very difficult during the school year. There’s very little downtime to do major work,” said Newstadt, adding that Ryerson’s summer programs make “downtime” even more constrained.
Lagging repairs are also partly due to shortages in funding, according to Newstadt. He said the leak in the staircase of SCC is a result of an “overflow from a drain outside,” which would be incredibly expensive and time-consuming to repair.
Newstadt said insufficient funds are also behind the general backlog of deferred maintenance that has been plaguing all Ontario universities.
“The guaranteed amount of money has been cut back progressively to support the operations of the university,” he said. This means that universities put more funding towards things like new building projects but less on maintaining older buildings.
While some students, like Mark, believe problems in the SCC are a result of maintenance “just not keeping up,” others argue students must take on some of the responsibility for the deteriorating state of the building. Kevin Heung, a third-year business management student, said things like broken chairs and dirty, marked-up walls can be attributed to students being disrespectful to the property.
Newstadt said students need to understand “[the SCC is] a very high capacity building and it’s used by students heavily.” As a result, it is susceptible to some wear and tear.
He also maintained that Ryerson has one of the most aggressive maintenance program among universities.
“It’s [the students’] building,” said Newstadt, “and the people who want to manage the building are working very hard to keep the building maintained.”
Maintenance staff is also working on fixing and renewing the building’s aesthetic appeal and general layout. Some of the renovation plans include “re-facing the southeast walls preventatively because there’s rotting wood, renovating the washrooms on the third floor of Oakham House and getting solar energy panels within the next six weeks,” said Newstadt.
“We’re trying to make the SCC the best one in the country. If there’s a problem, the students need to tell us — our ears are wide open.”