On Thursday, Sept. 5, around 11:20 p.m., an East Residence Hall elevator malfunctioned. An email sent out by the Housing Office to all residents said: “11 residents and one guest were caught in an East elevator that became disabled around the 4th floor.” In an interview, Director of Housing and Residential Life, John Sears, claimed that statement to mean that the 12 occupants were “in the elevator and the elevator was stationary; they couldn’t get it to move.”
Jane, a resident aboard the elevator during the malfunction, claims, “we all hopped in the elevator at once … and we were on our way down, and like, all of the sudden, we like, dropped three floors.” John Sears did not indicate that the elevator dropped during the interview.
Housing staff and the University of Massachusetts Boston police responded to the situation, an elevator technician was also contacted. Sears said it was expected to take technicians 40–45 minutes to arrive. The Boston Fire Department arrived at the scene and decided to open the elevator before the technician arrived. Sears explained why the elevator was opened before the technician got to the scene: “As soon as there’s any kind of medical emergency, someone indicates that they’re feeling unsafe, then the staff and police call Boston Fire. That’s exactly what happened in this case.”
Everyone in the elevator was examined by Emergency Medical Staff and no injuries were reported, but students were shaken up by the incident. Jane continued to detail the incident, saying “by the time they opened the doors, we were, like, half-way up so we all had to, like, jump down … and two of us passed out, including me.” Another resident could hear the noise of the malfunctioning elevator from his room, saying over messaging it was “loud like a drilling.” The elevator was put out of service until a technician could examine and approve it.
Sears went on to say, “the Otis [the company the Residence Halls uses for elevator technicians] Technician … indicated that the event last Thursday, the malfunction, was because of an over-speed governor, and the Otis technician said that typically, that is a result of folks jumping in the elevator.”
Wednesday, Sept. 11, another elevator in the East Hall became stuck with no occupants on board, and was declared out of service. An elevator technician arrived at the East Hall around 12 p.m. on Thursday, Sept. 12 to examine the elevator.
This is not the Residence Hall’s first run-in with elevator troubles. Last year, during the week of Sept. 3, 2018, the East Hall elevators experienced two major malfunctions; one on Sept. 5, and one on Sept. 7. No injuries were reported from either incident, however, students were understandably upset, and many opted to take the stairs upon hearing about the malfunctions. Following the incidents, the Office of Housing and Residential Life reported a faulty encoder system in all five elevators, three in the East Building and two in the West Building. On Friday, Sept. 14, 2018, all five elevators were inspected.
During this time, David Morrisey Sr., Construction Manager of Capstone Development Partners, the company who built the dorms, responded to a request for comment about the incidents by stating that “when a project of this size and scope, with sophisticated mechanical systems and equipment opens and is first occupied, it is typical for there to be adjustments necessary to various components or features of the building systems.”
In November of 2018, the Boston Globe posted the infamous, “Falling elevators, raw hamburger, lax security at UMass Boston Dorms” article. After the publishing of the article, interim chancellor Katherine Newman sent out a letter to all residents addressing what the Globe had reported regarding the problems at the residence halls, and plans to improve the students’ living space. Many aspects of the problems the Globe points out have since been improved upon.
As of Thursday, Sept. 12, two elevators remain out of order, leaving the East Hall with just one elevator rather than the usual three for its about 800 residents. Sears explained why the elevator that malfunctioned on Sept. 5 hasn’t yet been put back into service: “as a result of that extrication, the elevator was damaged a little bit. … That’s why it’s been out of service for a little while, we’re waiting on a part.”
When asked what residents can expect from the elevators, John Sears responded by saying “they should be able to expect to get to their floor safely and efficiently.”
Just about thirteen hours following the incident on Sept. 5, John Sears sent out an email to all residents and their families detailing the incident. In the interview, Sears indicated that the Housing Office was going to send a message to follow up with residents about practicing “safe” elevator usage. The Housing Office encourages anyone with questions and concerns to contact them at 617.287.6011.