Students, professors call for elevator modernization

Students, professors call for elevator modernization

Elevator modernization for accessibility on the Kent Campus was approved to begin in 2025, which several students and professors described as much needed. 

A sign placed by the University Library elevators for several days while maintenance worked on them.

The university submitted a six-year plan detailing its most important renovation or replacement needs in each of the eight campuses as per the request of the Ohio Office of Budget and Management, and the Kent State Board of Trustees approved the projects to take place between 2025 and 2030. 

The first two years of the plan will include elevator modernization in the University Library and a general elevator modernization goal across the Kent Campus. 

This news was received positively by Jennifer Hedges, a graduate teaching fellow at the Kent campus. Hedges teaches classes in Satterfield Hall and has recently found an issue with its elevator. 

The White Hall elevator opens up to accept another rider.

“Last semester is when I really started using the elevators because I’ve been having back problems, so going up and down steps is hard and even walking around campus has been difficult,” Hedges said. 

Hedges had emergency spinal surgery after her symptoms worsened and said using the stairs went from difficult to nearly impossible. Upon increasing her usage of the Satterfield Hall elevator, Hedges said she experienced unnerving rides and frequent emails notifying her the elevator was down. 

“Every time I’m in there I have to keep my knees bent because I feel like it’s just going to slam down or slam up, and the frequency that it goes out, in addition to how it jerks you around: that’s scary,” Hedges said. “I’m in the elevator thinking, ‘Am I going to get out? Or is it going to shut down and I’m never going to get to class?’” 

Hedges said she is encouraged that the university has elevator modernization plans and is hopeful the Satterfield Hall elevator will be a part of those projects. 

“I just want to get to class, learn and leave, and students just want to get to class, learn and leave,” Hedges said. “There’s so many different perspectives on it.” 

Alton Northup, a junior journalism major, experienced a separate incident with the Franklin Hall elevator in February. 

When Northup was attempting to take the elevator from the first to the third floor, it stopped moving and would not open. After pressing other floor buttons in an attempt to exit, the elevator took Northup to the basement. 

“So, I went to look for some stairs, but there’s no stairs out of there,” Northup said. “I waited for 10 minutes calling the elevator, but it wouldn’t come.” 

After waiting for 10 minutes, Northup called the non-emergency line. 40 minutes later, maintenance workers opened a hatch in the ceiling for him to climb through with a latter. 

Northup said after the event occurred, he realized that he could have been stuck in the basement for a lot longer and the situation could easily have been worse. 

A bag holding a leaking fluid in one of the University Library elevators towers over with googly eyes.

“What if you didn’t have your phone or what if your phone was dead?” Northup said. “You wouldn’t be able to contact anyone. Who knows if someone would have heard me if I was yelling because it was 6 pm, so classes were pretty much done. That’s when I realized I could have gotten trapped down there, and no one would have known where I was.” 

The implications of what would have happened if this happened to a student who was unable to climb a latter set in for Northup, made him think about the elevator problems mean for students with mobility issues. 

“If you have people who rely on elevators to get around the building, that’s just removing the option for them.”

Alton Northup

Six million dollars is going to be spent towards modernizing the University Library’s elevators, while four million dollars was given to modernize the Kent Campus elevators for accessibility. 

According to Douglas Pearson, Associate Vice President for Facilities Planning and Operations, a list of the top 10 worst elevators on campus was made for modernization consideration. Since the cost of these projects is around one million each, only two or three buildings will see newer accessibility. 

The two buildings most likely to be focused on are Bowman and Satterfield Hall. 

Pearson said the money for this plan will not be effective until Jul. 1, 2025, which is when most hiring and planning will begin to take place. 

“At that time, we would hire a designer, prepare construction documents, bid the project, and most likely the work wouldn’t happen until 2026,” Pearson said. “We can’t spend any money until July 1.” 

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