Oswego State sophomore Kayla D’Agostino was going from the first to the third floor in Oneida Hall last year when she decided to skip out on the stairs and take the elevator. D’Agostino’s shortcut, initially intended to save time, ended up taking a frightful and time-consuming turn.
D’Agostino said she heard a buzzing sound, as if the the elevator was preparing to stop, before the elevator opened up to closed doors facing the hallway, trapping D’Agostino inside the elevator.
D’Agostino found herself the victim of a situation seen at an increasing rate in campus residence halls: a broken down elevator.
“I called [my resident assistant], and she met us on the second floor, and we tried to pry the doors open from each side using our hands,” D’Agostino said. “She grabbed some object, like a bar or something, from the other side but it didn’t work.”
Eventually D’Agostino’s RA contacted University Police to help pry the doors open. D’Agostino said U.P. arrived about 15 minutes later and were able to pry the doors open after several attempts.
D’Agostino said she spent about 40 minutes total trapped inside of the elevator.
D’Agostino’s experience is one of 100 times that U.P. was called into a campus building to respond to an elevator problem in 2012, an increase from the 86 elevator problem related calls in 2011, according to data provided by U.P. and in the University Police 2011 Annual Report.
The most recent breakdown happened on Thursday, Feb. 14 when U.P. responded to a call about two Seneca Hall residents trapped inside an elevator.
Lt. Kevin Velzy of U.P. said that officers are usually called in when an elevator is stuck between floors or the elevator doors have become jammed in front of a floor.
“Usually it takes two officers and one goes to the elevator and makes sure the people are all right and not panicking,” Velzy said. “The other officer goes to the power source and cuts the power to the elevator.”
Velzy said the power is cut in order to ensure that the elevator does not move when they attempt to unjam it.
Velzy said that most elevator jams take only a few minutes for the officers to fix.
“It doesn’t take long once we get the power shut off,” Velzy said.
Velzy said that a majority of the calls they receive related to elevators do not involve students being trapped.
“It could be just that the elevator is not working properly, but no one is stuck in it,” Velzy said.
Danielle Dapson, an RA in Seneca Hall, said that the students trapped inside of the elevator looked distraught after being helped from the elevator, but that elevator breakdowns are not unusual for Seneca Hall.
“It seems like we have at least one break down every week,” Dapson said
Seneca Hall currently has one elevator shut down, but Dapson said there are times when multiple elevators are shut down, including earlier that week.
John Bricker, the utilities manager for the Oswego State campus, said that the elevators on West Campus are receiving the most work.
“We’ve been updating all over campus, but West Campus is a priority,” Bricker said.
Bricker said that one of the elevators in Seneca Hall, the only elevator currently out of order, had its speed drive fail, a malfunction that has forced them to order a new part before it can be repaired.
Oswego State’s elevators are furnished by Schindler Elevator, an international company based in Switzerland, with a U.S. division out of Morristown, N.J., and an office in Syracuse.
Bricker said that a majority of the problems are caused by students. Inside the doors of each elevator is a switch that, when students tamper with it, can cause the elevator to malfunction.
“Kids are playing with the switch and causing it to short out,” Bricker said.
Bricker said that the school has plans to tamper-proof the switches over spring break.
Richard Kolenda, associate dean of students for Residence Life and Housing, said that students find other ways to damage elevators as well.
“Students jumping up and down inside of them and forcing the doors open causes the elevator to shut off,” Kolenda said. “[This is] vandalism, it’s a cost.”
Kolenda said that all the elevators on campus have been rehabbed in some way within the last five years.
While the school attempts to repair broken elevators as soon as possible, Bricker said that the elevator technician goes home at 3:30 p.m. on weekdays, so to solve problems after that time causes issues with overtime pay.
Dapson said that having elevators out of commission can be a hindrance to her day-to-day tasks as a college student.
“It is a pain,” Dapson said. “I live on the side [of the residence hall] that has only one working elevator, so I have to wait sometimes 10 minutes for an elevator. It’s an extra 10 minutes that I could have been doing something else.”
Dapson also said that the situation can interfere with her duties as an RA.
“If there’s an emergency on another floor, I can’t get down it time and someone else has to take control of the situation,” Dapson said.
D’Agostino, who now lives in Onondaga Hall, said that the experience stays with her to this day.
“It makes me scared of elevators now,” D’Agostino said. “Every time I go in one and it shudders I feel like I’m going to get trapped again.”