This week, a four-part series in The Daily Pennsylvanian exposed the concerning state of housing facilities across campus. Besides drawing attention to the run-down and, quite frankly, unsafe conditions that 54 percent of students live in, the series highlighted another equally troubling phenomenon: Facilities and Real Estate Services’ widespread lack of concern for people, including students and workers.
Throughout the articles, workers expressed frustration at the bureaucracy and lack of respect that they’ve become accustomed to over the years. One worker spoke of being pressured to handle an unidentified mold despite his reservations that it would be unsafe. While adhering to FRES’ timetable is undoubtedly important, the safety of FRES’ workers should be paramount and take precedence over other budgetary or scheduling concerns.
Furthermore, many workers complained about FRES’ seeming eagerness to hire outside contractors instead of paying their workers overtime wages (which are paid at a normal rate, rather than the usual 1.5x wage) to complete maintenance requests as cheaply as possible. As shown in the article, such actions were not only frustrating to the workers on a personal level but also further delayed the resolution of the initial complaints.
FRES’ internal disorganization often wreaks havoc in students’ lives. Students interviewed in the DP articles recounted tales of being displaced for weeks — sometimes even months — while FRES worked on fulfilling basic maintenance requests like fixing leaks. Even critical requests like restoring heat to high rise rooms or repairing a leak that flooded a student’s bedroom were put off for the sole purpose of saving FRES the overtime pay that the work might require.
The fact that FRES prioritizes cost-cutting over concern for workers and students is troubling to us, and is clearly detrimental to the experiences of everyone involved. In the future, FRES needs to take student need and worker welfare into greater account when making operational decisions.
Please note All comments are eligible for publication in The Daily Pennsylvanian.