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Initiative makes classroom maintenance high priority

Sept. 14, 2007

KALAMAZOO--"Baby squirrels trapped in fan--mother squirrel very worried and making a lot of noise."

Who ya gonna call? At Western Michigan University, if an agitated squirrel is keeping you up at night or disrupting your English class, you simply send an e-mail to Bronco Fix-It, the University's online maintenance service request system.

Bronco Fix-It has been providing same-day response to non-emergency maintenance requests for on-campus housing since January. As part of this students-first initiative, WMU's maintenance division began providing the same high-priority service to classrooms this summer.

"If you live on campus, you spend a lot of your time in your residence, and if you commute, you spend most of your time in classrooms," notes Peter Strazdas, director of maintenance services. "It may take more than a day to get a part, but someone will do an on-site inspection within 24 hours and make repairs on the spot whenever possible.

"Our maintenance employees have stepped up and made it happen. They are the backbone of this great program and deserve the credit," he adds. "It's rare to find this level of service. Students living off campus tell me they sometimes wait weeks before even seeing a maintenance person."

In conjunction with the renewed emphasis on classrooms, a four-person student team spent the Summer I Session assessing all 489 classrooms in the 24 buildings that have these spaces.

The team judged each room based on nine predetermined attributes as well as their individual perspectives. The information they collected has been used to create a more accurate database for deciding what classroom furnishings and equipment need replacing and when.

"We spend a lot of money maintaining our campus, so we want to ensure we make correct, intelligent decisions based on facts," Strazdas says. "We used student eyes and senses to do a complete assessment. There're no more assumptions about which room has the worst chairs, flooring or chalkboards. We're not guessing or making decisions based on emotions."

The assessment team was lead by Jenifer Sulewski of Temperance, Mich., a senior majoring in secondary education and a member of the WMU volleyball team. The other team members were: Cynthia Han of Corunna, Mich., a senior majoring in psychology; Shedrick Harrell of Kalamazoo, a junior majoring in mechanical engineering; and Ryan Tallon of Kalamazoo, a senior majoring in management. Serving as the team's advisor was Kris Kenz, supervisor of WMU's Maintenance Service Center.

"It was a great project to do, and it was important to have the student perspective because we may see things others may not," she says. "For instance, a building coordinator might be thinking about the visual appearance of the floor while a student might be thinking that the outdated desk chairs are too small for many of today's students to fit in."

Once the assessment was finished, the students wrote more than 400 work orders to address various issues they found. They also held meetings with everyone they had worked with to discuss the outcomes of the assessment and how their classrooms compared to others across campus.

The three instructional buildings that fared least well in the assessment overall are McCracken, Sangren and Kohrman halls. However, McCracken is slated to be taken out of service as soon as feasible, Sangren remains No. 1 on WMU's list of projects awaiting capital outlay funding from the state and Kohrman is in the process of being renovated.

"Next, we'll use the assessment data to develop and fund a regular classroom maintenance schedule," says Lowell Rinker, vice president for business and finance. "The physical assets of our campus are an important part of our mission to provide a quality education. We're committed to improving our facilities, particularly classrooms, and how we service our campus customers."

For more information about Bronco Fix-It for Classrooms or to make a classroom repair request, visit http://broncofixit.pp.wmich.edu/classroom.html. For repair requests involving on-campus housing, visit www.reslife.wmich.edu and click on the Bronco Fix-It logo.

Maintenance emergencies are always given priority and should be reported by calling the Physical Plant Service Center at (269) 387-8514 between 7 a.m. and 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. After-hours emergencies should be reported to the WMU Department of Public Safety at (269) 387-5555.

Media contact: Jeanne Baron, (269) 387-8400, jeanne.baron@wmich.edu

WMU News
Office of University Relations
Western Michigan University
1903 W Michigan Ave
Kalamazoo MI 49008-5433 USA
(269) 387-8400