Safety Issues At NEIU

Christos Liardakis, Opinions Editor


Northeastern Illinois University (NEIU) is experiencing an increase of student complaints and concerns about safety problems on campus. Fire safety protocol was called into question shortly after 8 p.m. on Feb. 6, 2013, when the fire alarm went off at Beck’s Bookstore and continued to ring unabated for two hours. Students were not evacuated from nearby areas or classrooms.

Multiple fire extinguishers around campus were found to lack the monthly check signature on their maintenance tags. According to an employee from the heating plant, when it comes to inspection tags on fire extinguishers, it not so much a priority that the inspection tags get signed monthly, as long as extinguishers get checked.

NEIU lacks transparency when it comes to verifying fire safety equipment maintenance records with Facilities Management, as the actual logs of safety and functionality checks for fire extinguishers, safety eye washes and showers are not publicly accessible.

The second floor computer lab of Lech Walesa Hall (LWH) continues to have problems with loose caulking falling from below the skylight windows of the ceiling of LWH computer lab. The stopgap net solution remains in place, and half of the computer lab remains roped off with caution tape since the Independent last reported on this problem in the previous issue.

Elevator functionality and safety has been a hot topic of discussion around NEIU, with students reporting concerning noises and erratic functionality of both the LWH elevators and the Bernard Brummel Hall (BBH) elevator in particular to the Independent. Last semester, an elevator in the Ronald Williams Library stopped between floors with students inside.

There are water damage marks around NEIU, especially in the connecting hallway between the cafeteria and Lech Walesa Hall (LWH). The sinks in the Salme Harju Steinberg Fine Arts Center (FA) painting studios FA-212 and FA-206 continue to clog and remain full of standing water on a near-daily basis. Automatic bathroom sinks and toilets in virtually every building require recalibration to either restore functionality or moderate excessive function that wastes water.

Severe temperature fluctuations plagued LWH and BBH classrooms from the start of the Spring 2013 semester until the beginning of February. Temperature measurements taken in classrooms on the third floor of BBH ranged from 68 to 82 degrees during this period. Problems with a recent repair of BBH’s ventilation equipment was indicated as the root of the temperature and airflow problems, according to an employee from Facilities management who wished to remain unnamed. BBH has also experienced power outages during winger break and briefly during the beginning of classes in the Spring 2013 semester.

All of the above are important safety issues that the university should be aware of. Recent budget cuts have taken their toll on every department of NEIU, including Facilities Management, tasked with the maintenance of campus grounds “in a safe, functional, attractive and cost effective manner.”

In a June 2011 report to the NEIU Board of Trustees (BOT), President Hahs stated that “While cuts are being made across the University, the need for new resources exceeds the University’s ability to make budget cuts without affecting student instruction and student services.”

NEIU’s recent budget shortfall resulting from a decrease in funding for education in the Illinois state budget may explain why NEIU has left some of these issues unresolved. However, a University Planning and Budget Council proposal for the fiscal year of 2013 agreed by consensus that of all the enhancement of operation action plans proposed for 2013, an upgrade to the university website was the most highly prioritized, citing an “unsatisfactory” rating of the NEIU website by “outside reviewers” and referencing an unnamed study that claimed “a University web page is the single most important factor in recruitment of new graduate students.”

In this proposal released April 15, 2011, under Enhanced Operations, the previous Vice President of Academic Affairs and Provost Emeritus, Lawrence P. Frank recommended in Action #31 that NEIU should “Ensure that the University is safe and secure, that facilities and infrastructure, including technology and critical data, are protected; and that plans are in place to continuously monitor and enhance campus security and emergency preparedness.” The Vice President of Academic Affairs is a position currently held by the newly appointed Provost Richard J. Helldobler.

With so many safety and maintenance issues occurring in NEIU at this time, this brings into question whether the university is living up to its own expectations of safety and security.