By Jenelle Franklin
Students concerned with germs on the bathroom floors of Washtenaw Community College are reaching to put their book bags up on stall door hooks.
Upon a walk through of campus buildings – the Student Center building, the Gunder Myran building and the Crane Liberal Arts & Sciences building were found to have the most significant count of broken or missing hooks in restroom stalls.
The problem is, “They were never intended to hold a 20-pound, or 25-pound book bag, they were meant to hold a light jacket,” said Damon Flowers, WCC’s vice president of facilities, grounds and campus safety.
The resulting problem is that there is no current alternative for belongings except on the germ-covered floor. WCC journalism major Esiban Parent, 21, says he would change stalls when encountering broken or missing hooks.
“My backpack is full of deadly bacteria,” Parent said, because of not having a hook to hang his bag on.
The student concerns about microbes on the bathroom floors are nothing to take lightly, Flowers agrees.
“Students are driving home the fact that they don’t want to put their book-bags on the floor. As a former student, I don’t blame them. There could be urine on the floor, you don’t want to put your book bag on the floor, so I understand that,” Flowers said.
The American Society for Microbiology has produced a study tested in university bathrooms that shows bacteria resides and grows on bathroom surfaces, even after they are locked from human use.
“The team did find genes from MRSA hiding on the floor, as well as traces of some troublemaker viruses, including HPV and herpes virus,” Jack Gilbert, ASM study author, said in an interview with National Public Radio.
“For some reason, this is something that has come up in the last 24 months. I am not sure if students are carrying more books, or not using the floor and using the coat hooks, but they are breaking more frequently than in the past,” Flowers said.
With the increase of stalls having broken hooks, the administration says they are looking for a permanent fix.
“When we see one failure that keeps happening we know something is causing it, we reach out to other colleges. There’s a lot of exchanging of ideas with institutions that are having the same issue,” Flowers said.
Replacement hook design is a “stubbier hook,” allowing for more weight without the risk of it “shearing off,” as Flowers said, the longer ones tend to do with excess weight applied.
Students, like paralegal studies major Harriet Kozyn, who have encountered maintenance issues are directed to voice concerns via the facilities’ website or phone number.
“Today, it was in the library, second floor,” Kozyn said of walking into a bathroom stall and finding no hook for her belongings.
Adding weight, more than the coat and scarf she was wearing, would be Kozyn’s valuables she wants to keep close by her, but don’t fit in a pocket. A hook rack by the entrance of LA restrooms comes with a sign from campus security warning students against leaving valuables there unattended. As far as hook weight limit concerns, the doors are not meant for such added weight and the new hooks will be moved.
“If there’s enough room on either side we will look to see if we can put the stronger hooks in a solid wall surface, that back wall made of ceramic tile, because we have more material there to insert a lag screw that will not fail,” Flowers said.
Flowers said the stall doors are not built for holding heavy objects, and it causes the hinges to bend.
Kozyn, who is a returning student to WCC, has also attended Eastern Michigan University, and the University of Michigan. She has found building maintenance to be a problem across the colleges in the area.
Students may have to play an urgent version of “musical stalls” at WCC until Fall 2016, but can relax with assurance that the tune will be changing over the summer.
“We recognize it, we heard from students, and it’ll be corrected before the new semester in the fall, across campus,” Flowers said.
Additional reporting by staff writer, Ivan Flores