At Georgetown, the question isn’t how many people it takes to screw in a light bulb, but how many days it takes to get a light bulb screwed in.
University Facilities and Student Housing is already stretched thin. An inefficient system, in which large problems are not properly prioritized over smaller ones, only exacerbates delays. We need to develop structures that help students solve minor problems on their own so that Facilities can tackle more pressing issues.
Currently, when a student has a problem with university housing, he or she must fill out a work request form on the Georgetown University Facilities website. In response, the student receives an email with a work ticket number. If the problem is an emergency, the student is advised to call the Work Management Center directly, or the Department of Public Safety if it’s after hours.
The problem, however, is that students have lost faith in the work ticket system. When requests go unanswered for months, it creates an incentive for students to go directly to calling the center every time they have a problem, even if it isn’t really an emergency.
We propose a website that could serve as a resource — a do-it-yourself guide for more common, easily solved housing problems. Paired with rentable basic tools (like screwdrivers, wrenches or a stepstool) made available in Residence Hall Offices, a web resource could clear up the congestion by allowing students to take initiative in solving some of their own problems.
Not every student is comfortable with handiwork, but some are. University Information Services has a student-staffed help desk that deals with basic problems. By implementing a similar system for Facilities, the university could both create new work-study jobs and filter simpler maintenance problems out of the current system. With some basic training, student staff members could make house calls and either solve problems or recommend more challenging cases to the current staff.
With housing rates nearing $5,000 per semester, students should not be subjected to cold showers, rodents in their roofs or power outages. Many other problems that occupy the department’s time are easily solved, but they currently distract from attention that could otherwise be paid to more pressing issues. With a little support from the university, many students would be happy to gain some fix-it know-how in order to benefit from Facilities’ increased efficiency.
Even in ivory towers of academia, faucets leak. But some basic adjustments could unclog the system and allow Facilities to focus on the problems that matter most.