EducationHousing

University of Illinois dorm maintenance relies on facility staff responses to thousands of requests, lack annual inspections

Danielle Rhody / For CU-CitizenAccess

With thousands of students living in some type of University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign housing, there are thousands of maintenance requests and work orders every month. 

“A search for one month produced more than 800 Maintenance Inspector Weekend Logs, 2,400 Maintenance Request Database entries, and 3,000 work orders in the database,” University of Illinois Chief Records Officer Kristen Ruby stated in an email.

But there are no annual inspections for dorms, according to an email from Associate Chancellor Robin Kaler. She said staff members check for problems and enter the issues into a database, which is monitored for any trends.

“Because the university is state property, we aren’t part of the local inspection process,” Kaler stated in an email. “Instead, our trained facility professionals monitor and respond to facility-related issues. They handle emergency response, ongoing maintenance, and long-term planning.”

The university has a total of 39 student housing options: 24 regular dorms and 15 Private Certified Housing places. Greek houses are not university-maintained, but there are about 61.

The main difference between regular dorms and Private Certified Housing is that private housing is not owned by the university, while regular dorms are, according to a university admissions blog. About 75% of first-year students live at a dorm and 25% live at a Private Certified Housing facility, the blog states. 

All freshman and first-year transfer students are required to live in one of these housing options, with some exceptions. 

According to U.S. News, an independent media site that ranks national universities annually, approximately 50% of students at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign lived in a college-owned, operated or affiliate housing in fall 2020. That figure would equal around 26,300 students that semester, although the University facts page provides a lower estimate.

Darrell Hoemann Illinois Street Residence Halls, exterior (1010 W Illinois St, Urbana, IL 61801) on Wednesday, December 15, 2021. Photo by Darrell Hoemann/CU-CitizenAccess

Private housing is inspected by the city they are located in due to agreements the City of Urbana and the City of Champaign have with the university. 

In the past, Champaign’s Neighborhood Services Department inspected 53 private certified housing facilities in the 2015-2016 school year. They checked for violations of the City Property Maintenance Code, International Fire Code and certified housing requirements, according to a City of Champaign article.

The department found 1,433 violations after inspecting 52 properties. The next school year, 2016-2017, violations decreased to 1,394 at 51 properties, according to a City of Champaign article

Urbana is in charge of inspecting 22 of the certified housing facilities annually, according to a City of Urbana article. There are no city articles that report the number of violations for the facilities.

However, the database on maintenance of dorms is not made public.

Ruby stated in an email that the database on maintenance contains certain student information that will need to be redacted before being made accessible. 

To request a dorm inspection, the student or staff member needs to complete a dorm inspection request form. The form requires the requester to specify the request type, which has three options: maintenance, building services and warehouse. Only staff members are allowed to submit a warehouse request.

The form then requires the student or staff member to state the complex, building and area the request is being made for. The area portion of the form has a plethora of different options, from storage to residential rooms to stairwells. They then have to fill out their name, email, phone number and a description of what the request is for.

Students and staff members can also call the building maintenance phone number.

The maintenance requests have different service levels, which correlate to how important a request is. This determines the usual time frame a student or faculty member can expect their request to be fulfilled.

There are six different levels: deferred, slight, low, normal, high, immediate and emergency dispatch. The time frames for completion range from one day to within one year.

The description of emergency-dispatch is “requires an immediate response to reduce the risks of safety and/or health issues, utility service disruption, structural or mechanical damage to building, equipment or research,” according to the building maintenance website. This level does not have a set time frame.

The deferred level is defined as “the postponement of buildings, systems and equipment upkeep from an entity’s normal operating budget cycle due to a lack of funds,” according to the maintenance website. This level also does not have an expected time frame.

Danielle Rhody / For CU-CitizenAccess

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