Broken Clocks Serve as Indication of a Larger Campus Issue

All photos by Derek Norman

Strewn throughout the hallways of the campus’s five main buildings, hang 100 broken, still or incorrect clocks; each a testament that the time for campus repair is long overdue.

Out of the total 227 clocks displayed in the hallways alone, some have lost covers and had their hands mangled and bent outwards, while some have lost their face completely, leaving an empty black circle hanging uselessly from the ceiling.

The broken clocks are only an ignored symptom of the larger infrastructure issue that Brooklyn College has been facing for years. With reports of broken bathroom fixtures, leaking ceilings and crumbling tiles as frequent occurrences, the number of ineffective clocks didn’t come as a surprise to students, faculty and staff.

A trending hashtag among students reads #brokelyncollege, usually accompanied by a picture of the campus disrepair. In a recent poll conducted by the Kingsman on a college community-based Facebook page, asking if students were either frustrated or indifferent about the broken clocks, the majority of the responses went to a student’s impromptu write-in option of “not surprised.”

President Anderson addressed the severity of the infrastructural issues last November at a presentation addressing the college’s budget.

“We know how serious this is and we know we have a problem,” said Anderson. “This isn’t even about preventative maintenance, this is how important critical maintenance is to CUNY. We have old buildings throughout CUNY and it’s critical that we get this critical maintenance to try to just upkeep the buildings and tread water.”

There are nine broken or incorrect clocks hanging in the hallways of Whitehead Hall.

The responsibility of Maintenance and Facilities covers 2.5 million square feet and 15 buildings across the 35 acres of campus. The staff of 147 full time employees handles everything from custodial to electric and plumbing to engineering and grounds, all of which have taken cuts due to the budget.

While Facilities has to prioritize the more serious issues, the smaller problems such as broken clocks or water fountains take the backburner, resulting in decades of deferred maintenance.

A challenge facing administration is where to make the cuts when 94 percent of the budget is directed toward people. The cuts will be made through attrition, “strategic” attempts to reorganize and increase funding through other sources, which is challenging and limited, as outside donors generally prefer projects that will result their names being displayed on a building or attached to a scholarship.

In order to request funds from Albany, the issue needs to be deemed “critical” as opposed to “preventative.”

“We don’t have money for preventative maintenance and problems happen that are serious as a result of that,” said Anderson. “When those serious problems happen, we don’t have the money in our budget to fix them. We have to lobby CUNY central for emergency funds.”

There are 11 broken or incorrect clocks hanging in the hallways of Roosevelt Hall.

The Brooklyn College Master Plan, which was written in 2011 but outlines a ten-year span, notes infrastructure as a priority. An open forum in 2011 found that 60 percent of students, 60 percent of staff and 70 percent of faculty deemed interior renovations a “most needed” priority of the college. According to the outlined plans, the base building renovations and infrastructure upgrade alone was estimated to be a total of $427,588,000 for the four main buildings.

Focusing on mechanical work, electrical work, plumbing, fire protection and space utilization, the cost averaged out to about $514 per square foot.

In accordance with the Master Plan, it was also noted in the 2016 Strategic Plan of former President Karen Gould, to put infrastructure and renovation under action items and “Implement the facilities master plan and continue to plan, build, and renovate facilities that support instruction, research, and student engagement.”

The strategic plan included fundraising for infrastructure via the Foundation for Success Campaign, which between the years 2006 – 2015, garnered in over $200 million. A reported $50,767,190 was directed to “Modernizing Facilities to Support Our Mission,” as according to the Brooklyn College Foundation.

There are 22 broken or incorrect clocks hanging in the hallways of Boylan Hall.

As most of the buildings on campus are well over 50 years old, obstacles like lead paint and asbestos prevent renovations and construction from being an easy task. By law, the university is required to bring in contractors to assess and abate hazardous material before the work begins, delaying projects. Asbestos abatement has been frequent in the past year and even as recent as last week in Ingersoll Hall.

Brooklyn College has not had any violations in the past five years regarding hazardous material, aside from one violation for the improper storage of chemicals. But, the abatement process takes a substantial amount of time, which roadblocks the timeliness of many construction or renovation projects.

There are 25 broken or incorrect clocks hanging in the hallways of James Hall.

As reported by the Kingsman last December, there are only two plumbers assigned to making bathroom repairs, which have to be taken on a priority basis. By law, disability-accessible bathrooms are first priority, then high-traffic areas and places where multiple repairs are needed.

Leaks across campus have caused a slew of separate issues. Damages from one leak resulted in years of lobbying for funds by administration and a $7 million repair project in Whitman Hall. Another leak resulted in a damaged ceiling tile crashing down onto an adjunct professor’s head, sending her to the hospital.

A majority of classrooms have ceiling cutouts or missing tiles, which is a by-product of a $15.5 million dollar project to replace the fire alarm system. Many fire alarms are taped off with tape that reads “not in use” because, though they may have been replaced, they must remain out of service until the project is complete and the entire system can be turned on.

There are 33 broken or incorrect clocks hanging in the hallways of Ingersoll Hall.

The physical appearance of the buildings both inside and out is alarming and irritating to students on campus, so much that it was suggested that the money from last semester’s student participatory budget vote be used for infrastructure. With $17,000 for this semester’s participatory budget, student government had to stress that the money cannot be spent on campus infrastructure.

Lack of funds for building repairs and infrastructure upgrades is not limited to Brooklyn College only, but throughout the university.

“Sharing this information is important because you all need to understand the tension in the institutions and the tradeoffs which, unfortunately is a zero-sum game,” Anderson concluded at last fall’s presentation. “We will do everything we can to lobby – I will do everything I can to lobby – for more funds across CUNY. And there are forces bigger than us that will impact what the upshot is from the negotiations on the budget at CUNY central and state level.”

In the hallways alone, there are 100 broken or incorrect clocks hanging throughout the five main buildings on campus.

 

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