During the first two weeks of fall semester, two out of the four elevators
in Gladfelter Hall were out of commission.
The line of people waiting for an elevator was longer than usual and the lobby area was more congested. Students and faculty experienced difficulty making it to and from classes on time. A simple solution may be to take the stairs. However, in the past, stairwells in Gladfelter Hall were not accessible, at least until now. The building was designed in the 1960s, said Associate Vice President of Facilities Management Robert Buchholz.
“At the time, more elevators were put in,” Buchholz said. “Stairs were put in the back corner to meet the codes only. They weren’t put in to entice people.” People traditionally enter the building at the street level. By stairway, they can only get to the floor directly above, known as the plaza. After climbing a flight of stairs, one must meander through the halls to a different stairwell to reach higher floors. Students have no access to floors higher than the plaza from the lobby. However, the building does have a fire tower, which allows people to enter and directly reach any floor from plaza level up. It will now be left unlocked weekdays from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.
“The fire towers come down to the plaza, and then there are egresses from the plaza to the back of the building towards Anderson. As far as fire escape, it was a good plan,” Buchholz said.
In case of a fire, the wide clearing
of the outside plaza makes for a good safety regulation, in comparison with the tunnel between Gladfelter and Anderson Halls on the street level entrance. But the blueprints from the 1960s were not stair-climbing conscious.
At the start of fall semester, Carolyn Adams, dean of the College of Liberal Arts, noticed this problem and decided something needed to be done to solve it. After contacting Facilities Management and Campus Safety Services, they decided a possible
solution would be to leave the fire tower door left unlocked.
“People have always been able to use the stairway to go out, but not to go up,” Adams said. Adams said once the new stairway was made available, people began to use it more frequently. “Our experience during the first two weeks of classes made it clear that faculty and students are willing to use the stairway if it is made available,” Adams said. “People
spend a lot of time waiting for elevators.” Since the unlocked door is a fire exit and not a main entrance, security guards must be stationed to monitor who is entering the building.”
We wanted to make sure people felt safe using it,” said Deputy Director of Campus Safety Services Charles Leone.
A security officer is stationed outside of the fire exit during peak time when most students enter the building, according to Leone.
“I still have to figure out what I’m going to do in the winter,” he said. “I don’t want that poor person to freeze.” Leone said he is looking into identifying the location of a power source so as to provide a space heater for the attendant at the door, or perhaps the fire exit attendant and a kiosk guard will rotate shifts on the hour.
Adams said that if people are given an option, most people will use the stairs, “And that’s a choice people should have all the time.” Not only are Adams and Buchholz
concerned with a backup of people entering the building, but also conservation of energy and promoting healthy lifestyles.
“Elevators are a big user of energy,” Adams said. “People really need to be walking some stairs when it’s only one or two floors.”
Facilities management plans on testing this through the spring semester.
“If it’s being used then we’ll continue it, but if it doesn’t get used we’re not going to use the man power to watch those extra doors,” Buchholz said. Buchholz also said that, depending on how many people use this entrance, Facilities Management will look to make stairways more accessible in other university buildings as well.
“In most of the other buildings, you can access the stairs,” Leone said.
“[Gladfelter Hall] is a unique building as far as that goes.” Adams said she is grateful Campus Safety Services was willing to put more staff power in Gladfelter
“They help students and staff get to their destinations as quickly as possible,” Adams said.
“I think people appreciate that.”
Leigh Zaleski can be reached at email@example.com.