For residence hall maintenance at UF, a photo is all it takes
GAINESVILLE, Fla. — University of Florida officials have found they can get students to help maintain their residence halls by giving them a tool — but it’s not a paintbrush or hammer.
Instead, as part of a three-year-old program called “In Students’ Eyes,” housing administrators distribute digital cameras to undergraduates and encourage them to shoot photos of cracked ceiling tiles, flaking paint and other glitches they spot. Housing administrators then work with maintenance and custodial staff to fix the problems, posting the “before” and “after” pictures on bulletin boards and online.
“I’ve been in and out of all these buildings since I started here, and there are a lot of potential problems that I just don’t see anymore,” said Scott Nelson, a UF residence life coordinator who oversees five residence halls with about 1,000 students. “Since students live in the residence halls 24 hours per day, they notice a lot more than we do.”
Housing officials expanded the program this year, distributing about 50 cameras this fall as part of the first-semester program, which ended this month. Residence hall staff and members of the Inter-Residence Hall Association, a University of Florida student organization that governs residence halls, shoot photos and pass the cameras out to students. This year, students shot about 1,200 photos in roughly three weeks allotted for picture taking, double last year’s total.
Pictures run the gamut from minor glitches to major issues. Common shots may feature cracked windows and ceramic tiles, overgrown shrubbery or furniture with torn upholstery. Others spotlight bigger things, such as the need for a roof over an outdoor mailbox center or an empty space that the student photographer feels would make a nice spot for an outdoor terrace. Student photographers are provided with log books to note the locations of their photos.
Housing staff members take care of what they can immediately and plan for larger jobs later in the year, said Norb Dunkel, UF housing director, who came up with the concept for the program. Housing staff post photos of repairs as quickly as possible to show that they have responded to many of the students’ concerns, he said.
“For the minimal cost involved, and the excitement and gratification that students feel as well as the ownership they take in the building when seeing those things are taken care of – all of that makes it well worth it,” he said.
Dunkel said that with increased participation, the aim is to make the program obsolete. “Our biggest goal is that we sunset the program because we’ve kept up with everything and students can’t find anything to take pictures of,” he said.
To see a selection of “before” and “after” photos of dorm repairs, go to http://www.flickr.com/photos/33939700@N00/sets/72157594399298780/