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‘Nebulous and poorly attended to’: Swift residents lament recurring maintenance issues

<p>300 Swift Apartments.</p>

300 Swift Apartments.

300 Swift was already on shaky ground with students after reports of sinking floors, and some are now saying they’re unable to have their other maintenance requests addressed in a timely manner.

Swift has had a variety of issues since Duke acquired the complex in December 2016, ranging from balcony safety to sagging floors. That list now includes “chronically broken” appliances and other issues that some students are having to tackle themselves without consistent communication from facilities or housing staff. 

Junior Jacob Manders said that he filed work orders for the thermostat, dryer, shower, toilet and sink in his apartment, but only one was actually addressed.

“The only one that actually got fixed was the dryer after I put in three or four work requests and emailed the [Residence Coordinator] and told him I would just fix it myself,” Manders said.

Eventually, Manders received notice that maintenance would order a spare part for the dryer but did not hear anything more until over a week later when he spoke with someone in the first floor office. The person Manders spoke to informed him that the system showed his requests as complete, to which he responded that no one ever arrived.

“I started to get kind of suspicious that perhaps some of them were just being marked as completed, which is why I started putting in multiple [requests] for the same issues,” Manders said.

The entire process to get the dryer repaired took four to six weeks, according to Manders.

“None of the other [work orders] have been responded to at all, so as a result, I self-taught basic home maintenance,” Manders said. “I learned how to undo the pipes under the sink. I learned how to fix a toilet.”

Despite this, Manders recognized that the high volume of requests is likely placing a lot of pressure on staff and suggested increasing the number of maintenance staff.

“I’m sure it’s frustrating on both sides,” he said.

Multiple maintenance requests ignored

Others have had to address the same issue multiple times. Junior Gautam Iyer said that he and his three roommates have submitted at least five work orders since the semester began, primarily related to the “chronically broken” washer and dryer.

“Throughout the year we’ve had people come in and repair them multiple times, only for them to break in different ways,” Iyer said.

After one request to fix the washer was fulfilled, the washer “more or less exploded” and flooded the apartment, after which the residents filed another request and someone came by again.

Junior Christian Brown said he hadn’t personally reported any maintenance issues but corroborated Iyer’s account.

“In one instance, their washer nearly flooded their apartment and just started pumping water onto the floor after the maintenance man came because he didn’t put some clip on correctly, so the water that was supposed to go to the washroom just started going to the floor,” Brown said. “Some part of [the dryer] just became unhinged and it effectively became unusable, and that’s happened to them twice.”

Like Manders, Brown said the University should increase the amount of resources dedicated to maintenance.

“Across the board, I know a lot of people are having problems with different stuff, whether it’s their shower, washer and dryer or something else, and the rate at which the people that filed requests are actually attended to is low,” Brown said.

Brown wished that the University had informed students about what was going on at Swift before they moved in. He pointed to a recent rule limiting apartment capacity and the fact that the gym was transformed into an office space without notice.

“They told us not to have more than 10 people in a room because the floors can’t support it; that’s pretty abnormal,” Brown said. “And none of these things are really told to us before we get here. People are paying a lot of money to live here.”

Iyer expressed a similar sentiment.

“We’re just kind of upset that this is an issue at all. We’re paying quite a bit to live in Swift, and Duke has so much money and invests literally billions of dollars into other things,” Iyer said. “It’s just really disappointing to see that something as simple as a washer-dryer is so hard to fix, and the process to get it fixed is so nebulous and poorly attended to that it takes us multiple work order requests for somebody to even come here, and when they do come here, it doesn’t get fixed.”

Manders said that more transparency surrounding work orders would be helpful, including a system that shows the status and volume of requests.

“That way it’d be easier to tell if there were a ton of other maintenance requests before yours came in and it’s gonna be a little while before they get to it,” Manders said. “That would be easier to understand than the feeling of ‘Oh, it’s been put in and just hasn’t been seen or just got swept under the rug or something.’”

Submitting and processing work orders

There are multiple avenues to submit work orders. Work orders for academic buildings, libraries and athletic facilities are submitted to a form requiring NetID authentication. This form is managed by Duke Facilities Management and has a portal showing the status of submitted work orders. Emails are also sent upon receipt and completion of requests.

The facilities website directs students to a Housing and Residence Life webpage for information on residential maintenance requests, but those orders can also be submitted through the Facilities Management work order system, according to Christopher Rossi, assistant vice president of student affairs for strategic engagement. 

The HRL webpage about residential work orders instructs students to contact their respective campus office or submit a request through a Qualtrics form. If students use the Qualtrics form, the onus for updates falls on housing staff.

“In such cases, staff assistants in the corresponding HRL campus office send work requests to facilities teams in that campus zone. When using this form, updates are communicated by staff assistants in the HRL campus office,” Rossi wrote.


Nadia Bey | Managing Editor

Nadia Bey is a Trinity junior and managing editor of The Chronicle's 117th volume.

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