Dorm living’s dreaded maintenance game


Josh Ryan ’27 is a prospective public policy and sociology major. He is a new member of AMP and a member of the Student Trail Crew. Contact him at

The views expressed in the article are the author’s own.

At the beginning of the spring semester, I needed the bug net on my window to be fixed. This should not have been a notable situation, because when you live somewhere long enough, things are bound to stop working. It’s a simple fact of life. Even the nicest homes constantly require upkeep, leading to the common nickname of a house being a “money pit.” Our dorms at the College of William and Mary are no exception. It seems like something is always breaking, failing or faulty within a residence hall. 

The rate at which things break in our dorms is not really a problem worth writing about, though. It’s to be expected in a dorm life setting that things will go wrong more than they would back home. But once maintenance accidentally broke my window while trying to fix the net, I quickly learned the real problem lies within the only tool a resident has against their dorm falling apart: a service request. 

Trying to get maintenance done in one’s dorm is a game of endurance. If it had a name, it would be: “How many times are you willing to file a request before you either forget or give up?” It’s not a very fun game, but every time mold is found in an air conditioning unit, it’s the only one a student can play. Once you’ve filed a request, days go by without a shred of evidence that it was even looked at, with the issue quite literally gathering dust. Once someone has put in four or so service requests into the system without any sign of life from Facilities Management, there seems to be only one way to bother maintenance sufficiently to get a repairman: make a phone call on the emergency service line. 

From my own experience, I have only ever gotten results from making that call to maintenance. That is not to say emergency service maintenance is quick to help. Usually, numerous phone calls are required to remind them to come to your dorm, even if they already told you someone would be there later that day. They are often late by several hours; forcing you or your roommate to stay in the dorm room for far longer than intended. Once or twice, I’ve had a repairman arrive without the necessary equipment and have to go back to get it. A part of the emergency service call involves describing the problem, so there must be a communication breakdown between the people physically repairing problems and the people sending them to the problems. 

Considering the intended usage of this service, this is frankly unacceptable. Students should not have to wait days to fix issues that could seriously impact their health or comfort for seemingly no reason. Student life is stressful enough already without having to micro-manage a situation for which they aren’t to blame. If not strictly “dangerous,” many emergencies in a dorm room can cause conditions that are too unreasonably uncomfortable for a student to just try and wait out. Nobody should have to try to ignore a huge colony of mold when using their shower or wear three extra layers in their dorm room because the heater broke, when there are people easily equipped with the tools to make those problems go away. 

Even if the emergency service function worked appropriately, the useless nature of the service request form cannot be ignored. Just because something is not an emergency does not mean it should never get fixed. Yet, the maintenance process seems to ask just how badly you want to have maintenance. Some may feel that using the emergency call number for a non-emergency is a waste of time for the repairmen reserved for more extreme situations. These students might simply decide to live with the issue unresolved, not expecting maintenance to ever get around to fixing it. 

And even if you get lucky, and someone arrives to fix that bug net that’s supposed to keep the Virginian insects out, you better hope they fix it in one go. There seems to be no such thing as a follow-up. If your problem comes back, or the repairman can’t manage to fix it, you’re back at square one. You have to go through the whole ordeal again, but with much less patience than you might’ve had initially. I needed to have my floor vacuumed to remove the glass from it more than once, and each time required another round of calling and waiting. 

On a more positive note, the people doing the repairs seem to be doing their best to do their jobs. Once they were at my dorm, the glass situation was handled within minutes, and the man taking measurements on my window seemed genuinely committed to getting me a new one by the next week. It’s been two months and I still have a temporary foam window to keep the cold out. Despite their best intentions and efforts, any good done by maintenance is hampered by the sheer difficulty of getting it done. It’s also not fair to blame maintenance for questioning whether a repair is an emergency when it was only filed as such to have the repair happen. Both the students and Facilities Management deserve a better system. One that distributes the personnel in a way that is quick and responsive and also allows for the urgency of a maintenance issue to be respected. 

As for me, I have fallen into the category of people who will simply live with my anti-window. Once the semester ends, it will cease to be my problem to deal with. I only have a month or so left in my freshman year and I do not want to spend any more of it on the phone with emergency services.


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