Meet the “guys” of Physical Plant

Devin Burke

It often seems a priori to college students that they complain about certain campus services. Of course, food services throughout colleges throughout the world bear the brunt of the disgruntlement. Not far down the list of unfavored favorites are the maintenance “guys,” known to Lawrentians as Physical Plant.This year, Physical Plant is being put to the test. The amount of campus construction, the increase in enrollment, and the large freshman class has contributed to the workload that typically faces them on both a daily and yearly basis.

During the calendar year, the busiest time for Physical Plant staff is the beginning of fall term. Following as a close second is the end of spring term, when Physical Plant begins repairs on the damages left by evacuating students. Every transition between terms leads to extra work for Physical Plant, or at least allows them time to focus on other projects while students are away.

The labor intensive creation of Con West that began in July occupied much of Physical Plant’s resources during the summer. Because of the drastic changes to the inside of the building, many of Physical Plant’s 19-person staff had plenty to do. The aftershocks of the move might even continue far into the term.

The construction is typical of the kind of work that Physical Plant engages in during the summer months. When students leave campus, Physical Plan turns its attention to academic, administrative buildings and larger-scale projects. For example, the inside of Colman Hall was completely repainted during the heat of the summer.

During the school year, Physical Plant’s main duty is maintenance rather than renovations or construction. There is plenty to do in that realm as it is.

Physical Plant currently has around 600 backlogged orders. Most of those are left over from the summer, and many overlap with work orders that students and faculty are calling in as they settle into their new rooms and offices.

The reason that there is overlap with the problems that Physical Plant already has on file is that Physical Plant has been enacting a new procedure over the last two summers. While Lawrentians are away for summer break, three employees of Physical Plant inspect every single room in every building on campus, residential or otherwise. The idea is to catch and deal with problems before the students find them.

As a result, some students have encountered notes in their rooms stating that Physical Plant has fixed a problem that they may have not called in for or known about. This is due to the fact that every room has been pre-inspected.

Some students may also not know or be uncomfortable about the idea that Physical Plant staff can enter their room at any time without prior notification. Harold Ginke, director of Physical Plant, acknowledges that “if a student has a concern about someone entering the room, we certainly respect that.”

Ginke recommends that if a student has concerns about privacy or room access, he or she should let Physical Plant know about it. Any kind of communication will do, he says, whether a student calls in, sends an e-mail, mails a campus letter, or visits in person.

Physical Plant is on call twenty-four hours a day. Campus security has a list of Physical Plant staff who should be called in case of any emergency. Their normal working hours are 7 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., although the Physical Plant office closes at 5 p.m.

Work orders are ranked on a three-tier priority system, marked A, B, and C. Calls that are labeled as “A” type problems receive the highest priority. They are handled within three days. “B” problems are the most common, and include work orders such as bed bunking. Ten days is the maximum length of time for a “B” problem to receive attention. “C” problems are anything deemed not critical.

Over the past four years, Physical Plant has handled over 40,000 work orders. As the university grows, Physical Plant has their work cut out for them.