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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

Inside the Beacon Fitness Center: Facilities Problems Revealed

Inside the Beacon Fitness Center: Facilities Problems Revealed

Have you ever fallen victim to unpredictable elevators; doors closing on top of you, or temporarily being held hostage in between floors, or sacrificing five precious minutes waiting for their arrival, only to be stuck on the same floor because the doors refuse to shut? How many times have you wanted a quick drink of water only to have your thirst prolonged due to inoperable or low-pressure water fountains, or nearly killed yourself on the catwalk after slipping on the puddle of water accumulated from water dripping through the cracks in the ceiling on rainy days? Have the odors emanating from any campus restroom caused you to nearly faint because of non-working or clogged vents? We have all heard about or been a witness to these situations. The following investigative spotlight is the first in a series that attempts to shed a light on a few of the more pressing maintenance and facilities issues on campus.

One such issue, which has received ongoing complaints from students, has been the generally unsanitary and decrepit conditions of the Beacon Fitness Center men’s locker room. The tales of loose and mildew-bearing floor tiles, as well as fly infestation of two large cracks in the shower room ceiling, were confirmed by this reporter. As regrettable as these conditions were, further observation soon revealed an even greater concern: a broken handicapped accessible showerhead.

According to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), institutions of higher learning are obligated to provide handicapped-accessible accommodations and services, such as modified shower facilities. The four shower rooms on campus were modified to accommodate wheelchair users in 1990. When asked to comment on the issue, Chris Fitzgerald, GM of the Beacon Fitness Center and vocal advocate for upgrading numerous aspects of the center, remarked that he had not been made aware of that particular problem. Assistant Director of Athletics, and direct overseer of the fitness center, Rodney Hughes was unaware as well, though he said “But I am aware of it now, and you can bet that the problem will be soon be fixed.” Mr. Hughes suggested that his supervisor Jim Hoey would be more able to appropriately answer additional questions relating to maintenance.

James Hoey, Manager of Athletic Facilities, acknowledged that there were quite a few maintenance issues that both he and Athletics Director Charlie Titus, have been working towards improving. Although Mr. Hoey was unaware of the nonworking shower in the fitness center, he remarked that an identical situation came up last year, but in the men’s varsity shower room in Clark. After being made aware of it, Mr. Hoey explained, “I sent out a work order to main facilities who were able to get it working again within a couple of days.”

In the process of going through the Athletic Department hierarchy to learn who might have to know about the broken showerhead for it to be fixed, two things became clear. First, everyone in authority seemed “unaware.” Secondly, that the university was possibly in violation of Federal ADA guidelines that state: “A shower spray unit at least 60 in. long, used as both a fixed and hand-held shower head shall be provided.”

“Institutions receiving federal funding must make reasonable efforts to design or modify existing facilities in ways that allow people with disabilities equal access to the same areas and services that are afforded to able-bodied people” explained Carol DeSouza, ADA Compliance Officer for UMB. Although she was not aware of the nonworking handicapped shower, she did confirm that such an event would signify a violation of the ADA by the university.

The length of time the shower has been broken is anybody’s guess. It is also unclear just how many male users of the fitness club are dependent upon the modified shower.

In an e-mail exchange on Friday, February 14, Ms. DeSouza told Mr. Fritzgerald that it “has just come to my attention that there is a problem with the shower room for the Beacon Fitness Center.

“I’m not exactly sure of the details of this problem, but I have been told it is an ADA issue since it is the wheelchair-accessible shower facility,” Ms. DeSouza said, asking Mr. Fitzgerald to check it.

Mr. Fitzgerald responded the same day, saying that he had had someone report it a week ago. “I’m sure a plumber could fix it without much trouble,” he said. “Please submit a work order to have someone come over and address the problem.”