See something, say something.
That seems to be the moral of a recent saga that led to students and teachers being locked out of their class in the Hashinger Science Center basement.
The doors of a Hashinger Science Center classroom locked automatically for weeks –blocking students from class– before it was repaired the day after a Prowl reporter inquired about the problem on April 22.
The double doors in the basement of Hashinger Science Center were broken for more than three weeks, according to sophomore economics major Kat Brown and Jianwei Zheng, a PhD student and Math 203 instructor.
Zheng and some of his students trying to attend class in room 50 of Hashinger fiddled with the lock for minutes at a time, resulting in both lateness and absence from a significant amount of lecture.
Prowl sent an email to Facilities Management on April 22 regarding the broken door and the door was repaired the following day. While the door prompted epic frustration for students and faculty, no one had reported the problem beforehand, according to Associate Vice President of Facilities Management Rick Turner.
Why no one had reported the issue may be explained by two principles documented in psychology research: the bystander effect and diffusion of responsibility. The presence of others discourages individuals from taking initiative and action to solve a problem because they presume – or hope – someone else will do it for them.
“When you walk past that door, it’s a much more efficient strategy to assume that someone else must have seen it, and that I’m not the first one,” said psychology professor David Pincus. “If you always think that you’re the first and only one, and you always try to solve every problem you walk by—I mean go to any major city—you’re going to be helping hundreds of homeless people before you can get a cup of coffee in the morning.”
People sometimes exhibit “not my problem” indifference. In Feb., a toilet in the women’s accessible bathroom stall in the Leatherby Libraries basemen was clogged for 12 days, but Facilities Management only received one complaint, according to Turner. Why don’t people take constructive action to report and solve a problem instead of complaining amongst themselves? There are several reasons.
“I don’t know how to report things to Facilities Management. Is there a form? Is there a hotline? I really don’t know,” Brown said. Zheng confessed that he didn’t know who was responsible for reporting or fixing building issues, either.
“If Facilities Management is interacting with that door every day and it’s a part of their job to make sure that the door is working, then that’s an issue of training and it should be corrected. The responsibility would belong to Facilities Management,” Pincus said.
Zheng was also eager to assign blame to Facilities: “The school should already know that it is broken because they lock the door every day.”
But Facilities Management did not lock the door, said Turner, who postulated that Public Safety or other staff was involved with that task.
Public Safety did not unlock and lock the door daily, and it was confirmed that they did not submit a work order for it, according to Chief of Public Safety Randy Burba.
“Since we did not lock and unlock it daily, we probably would not have known it was an ongoing issue; even if we would have responded to assist the professor in opening it one day,” Burba said.
In this case, the fundamental attribution error, the tendency to blame an individual rather than the situation, would be relevant, according to Pincus.
“It’s not a question of fault. It’s more a question of how we can find better ways of partnering and sharing information,” Turner said.
After being locked out three times, Zheng called Public Safety and then placed a plastic chair between the doors to keep them open. One time, he re-entered through the Irvine Lecture Hall connected to Hashinger basement, and another time Public Safety had opened the door for him, Zheng said. Other times, he opened the door himself but not without toying with it first.
“It’s super annoying because we shouldn’t be the ones taking care of these kinds of issues, someone else should fix it automatically,” Zheng said.
Although he had called Public Safety, Zheng admitted that he did not report the broken door to Facilities Management. Nor did Brown.
Maintenance of Chapman’s facilities is a shared responsibility between students, faculty and Facilities Management, according to Turner.
“Facilities receives the majority of the work requests from the campus community and those affected by the condition in question,” Turner said. “We rely on the concept of partnering with our faculty, staff and students with the maintenance of our facilities.”
The fact that the door and disabled bathroom were broken for so long proves that this ideal has yet to be met.
Work requests to report maintenance issues can be found on Chapman’s campus services page. For emergencies, you can call Public Safety at (714) 997-6763 or leave a message to (714) 997-6658, Facilities Management’s phone line.