The problem? No hot water. The cause? A broken circulator pump. The effect? A drastic inconvenience in the way students showered.
For the first month of school, residents on the first floor of Williams Hall did not have consistent hot water for showering. “The first couple weeks it was semi-warm and then it turned cold all the time. Sometimes, if you left it running for a while, it would turn hot but most of the time it was really cold,” said Mary Giblin ‘27. The issue was a malfunctioning hot water circulation pump, Rick Quinbar, the director of Facilities, Central Utilities Operations informed. Residents’ shower habits and their decisions of where to shower were affected because of the problem’s persistence.
Navigating the Problem
To navigate the issue, many students would leave the water running to try and heat it up. “Sometimes if you let the water run for like 15 minutes it’ll get a little warm,” Giblin commented. If they were lucky, it would stay warm. Since they had hall bathrooms rather than en suite bathrooms, some students would leave the shower running for the next person, switching out with them so that they could have warm water as well, Giblin added.
Another solution for some residents was using the showers on another floor. However, Lillybeth Banchon ’27, a resident of the third floor of Williams Hall, said that there are only four showers on the second and third floors, all of which are very small.
“It’s really hard to do anything in there because you want to avoid touching the curtains and touching the walls too,” said Banchon.
Showering on a different floor, while a solution for some, was not appealing to others. The showers’ small size, constant hygiene issues and minor temperature problems led many residents of Williams Hall to shower in other dorms instead.
“I’m guilty of [showering in other dorms],” an anonymous source admitted. “I know people get mad about it, which is fair. If it were the other way around, I’d get mad. But they haven’t experienced what we’ve experienced.”
For many students, this wasn’t a sustainable solution. Bathrooms in the other freshmen dorms, which all have hall-style bathrooms, were getting congested, preventing residents from showering in their own dorms, according to Catherine Whitwood ’27, a resident of Merriam Hall.
“You just always see people walking in through the back door just going straight to shower,” said Whitwood. “It’s sometimes annoying because if you want to go in and shower in your own dorm, you have a whole queue. I once sat in a queue with four other girls outside of the bathroom because we all really wanted to shower.”
Tiffany Elias, a Resident Advisor of the first floor in Williams, confirmed that a multitude of her residents came to her about the temperature of the showers in both the men’s and women’s restrooms.
“Both male and female residents were telling me the showers are cold. I had a floor meeting on [September] 21st and I asked them ‘are the showers still cold?’ And most of them said ‘yes.’”
After the meeting, Elias filed a maintenance request and encouraged her residents to do the same, directing them to the QR codes posted in each dorm. When on school wifi, students can send reports directly to Facilities from their mobile devices by scanning the QR code, filling out information regarding the issue and submitting it.
The Root of the Issue
It was only because of these requests that the first floor of Williams Hall once again had hot water, Quinbar shared.
“We rely on the students to let us know and then we immediately know where to dispatch somebody,” said Quinbar. “We received a few calls and two work order requests and so we went over and looked at it.”
But why did one issue take so long to fix?
Quinbar explained that it is hard to tell the difference between an isolated incident and a full-system issue, especially when it comes to a structure as old as the water circulation system.
Located on the fourth floor, the small pump keeps thousands of gallons of water circulating throughout the building, Quinbar stated. Hot water can be accessed from any bathroom at any time, without having to clear cold water out of the entire line. With that much wear-and-tear, any dorm with a circulating pump would need its pump to be replaced at some point.
“It’s not something that Facilities goes and checks every morning because of the total number of dorms,” Quinbar said.
As a result, the pump in Williams Hall was overlooked by workers troubleshooting the issue.
“Last week is when I found out about it,” Quinbar shared. One of the workers brought it up to him after their attempts to fix the issue were unsuccessful. After Quinbar got involved and the proper techniques to assess the situation were employed, the issue was quickly discovered.
“We repaired it once we knew the pump was out, probably in two hours,” Quinbar said. “We haven’t had a call since.”
In order for facilities to fix problems such as this, they need to know about them first. Both Elias and Quinbar brought up the importance of students submitting facilities requests. “If there’s something you want to change, you’ve got to [submit facilities requests],” Elias said. “That’s the only way the change is going to happen.”
QR codes to submit facilities requests are posted in every building and students can either submit requests via the QR code at the provided link, or by calling Facilities at (909)748-8020.
“If you put something in on Monday and it hasn’t been resolved by Wednesday, Thursday at the latest, call in,” Quinbar emphasized.
After a month of cold showers, the issue with hot water at Williams Hall has been resolved, allowing students to return to their normal routines. Thanks to students submitting reports and Facilities investigating further, the broken pump was discovered and replaced. As problems arise in the future, the QR codes are a tool for students to use for resolving similar issues.
Photos by Eleanor Bachmeier.