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April 03, 2007

Missing: Twix, Bathrooms; Found: Answers, Info

By Sumeera Younis

We have one of the most beautiful law schools in the country, some of the most acclaimed faculty in the world, incredible classmates –heck, we even have a Duby. So students often find themselves puzzled when they are walking up and down the second floor of Hutchins Hall trying to find a bathroom. “It can’t be,” they think, “No bathroom on this floor?” Being the logical law students they are, they know this can’t be possible, so they walk up and down the halls some more, thinking there may be a secret passage to a land of many, many bathrooms. Soon they find themselves broken, dying to pee, and shocked that the great University of Michigan Law School has a bathroom shortage.

Maybe it isn’t that dramatic, but hearing Michigan students talk about the issue of bathrooms would make you think it was. The truth is that despite the many amazing attributes our school has, we deserve to be in the hall of shame for some of our facilities’ shortcomings. Recently I visited the University of Toledo Law School just south of us in Ohio and noticed that all of their classes are in “smart classrooms.” They have chairs that swivel and are cushioned! They can download the notes their professor writes on the board to their computers! It felt like I had gone to a magical place of learning where anything was possible. And the bathrooms were practically in the classrooms. Ok, ok, so I exaggerate a little bit, but their facilities did blow me away, especially considering the fact that their tuition is a fraction of ours and we are ranked substantially higher than they are. (Rankings are a whole different discussion, though.)

So, are we doomed? Our facilities suck, no one cares, and we are doomed to hold it or, dare I say it...walk a whole flight of stairs just to fulfill our Constitutional right to relieve ourselves? After compiling a list of concerns that students expressed, I went to the facilities director, Brent Dickman. Other than the bathrooms, most of the other concerns involved temperatures in classrooms, flickering lights, and the drinking fountains. These are all maintenance issues and can often be corrected quickly if they are relayed to the right person. Whenever you have a maintenance issue you can pass it along to Lois Oerther (loiso@umich.edu) who has been very helpful in making sure the concerns are addressed promptly.

Brent Dickman is also a great resource in answering questions regarding facilities issues and has been able to offer some insight into student’s biggest concerns. Below are his responses to our students’ three major facilities issues.

Why aren’t the vending machines ever stocked?
There were concerns about stocking of vending machines and having a coffee machine in the basement. We have a vendor that owns and stocks the machines. The coffee machine that was in the basement had very little usage, and it wasn’t profitable for the company to keep it here. We do have issues with the company keeping machines stocked. I don’t know why that is, because they are losing money every time this happens. One would think they would do a better job of keeping them stocked. But Lois does call and keep after them when they fail to stock the machines. She has also mentioned the lack-of-bottled-water issue to them.

Why don’t we have better bathroom facilities?
Adding and upgrading bathrooms has been part of our master plan for quite some time. It is not an easy problem to solve. Adding bathrooms to the 1st and 2nd floors of Hutchins requires space that isn’t there. It will require us to convert a classroom or existing administrative space, which requires us to have space elsewhere. It’s a problem that will get solved as part of our larger renovation/expansion plans.

When can we expect to see better elevators in Hutchins Halls?
We are now working with engineers to design new elevators for Legal Research and to design aesthetic improvements to the Hutchins elevator. The University pays for elevator replacement and is only funding the Legal Research replacement this year. The Hutchins elevator will be replaced in a not-too-distant future year. But, at least it should look a little better by the time the students return in the fall.


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Facilities issues can’t always be fixed right away, but the only way they will ever be fixed at all is if the administration knows that they are a concern, and this happens only then students are vocal about their needs. Our university has a lot of amazing qualities, and many of them came about because students expressed what was important to them in their legal education.

A girl can only dream, but one day we too may have swivel chairs!