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The Westfield Voice

The Westfield Voice

Public Records Reveal Extent of University Hall Elevator Issues

inside university’s elevator. Photo credits: Daniel Currier

The Westfield Voice published an article on Saturday, September 18, 2021 regarding recent incidents of students getting stuck in the University Hall elevators. This serves as a follow-up to that article, providing more information in light of a successful acquisition of public records from Westfield State University. 

Following at least three incidents of students getting stuck inside one of the elevators inside University Hall, Westfield State University has released fifteen pages of documents exclusively to The Westfield Voice, detailing exactly what transpired inside the elevators during each of the three incidents. 

The documents were released by Tricia Oliver, Chief of Staff and Public Records Officer, this week following a public records request sent on Monday, September 13, 2021, under Massachusetts General Law Chapter 66, Section 10. Though redacted in some areas to prevent an “unwarranted invasion of personal privacy” pursuant to Massachusetts General Law, the documents released by the university help to shed light on the incidents that have confounded the students that call University Hall home. 

The fifteen pages of public records released by the institution -which are available for viewing here– contain email conversations between administrators, inspection records, service reports, an invoice for the extraction of students during the original incident, incident reports, and narratives provided by officers and dispatchers with the Department of Public Safety. The information contained in the documents can be summarized as follows: 

  • Jumping Results in Misdemeanor Charge – Two students, described as both being nineteen-year-old white males, were cited for destruction of property in the amount of $1,200 for jumping in one of the University Hall elevators on Sunday, September 12, 2021 at 9:47pm, causing the elevator to come to a screeching halt. According to a narrative provided by Officer Caitlin McCue, the group in the elevator (with both of the suspects inside) “all began to laugh” at the assertion that someone may have jumped in the elevator before two individuals (later identified as the culprits) attempted to deny any blame and not be seen on camera. 
  • Heavy Financial Toll for the University – Extracting students from the elevator has been no easy task from a fiscal lens, according to one document released to The Westfield Voice. An invoice dated August 31, 2021 and received by the Accounts Payable Office on September 8, 2021, the university paid $851.50 to the TK Elevator Corporation (with a branch office in Providence, RI) for extracting ten students from the beleaguered University Hall elevator on Wednesday, August 25, 2021 – the first day for many of those students now calling Westfield State University their home. No invoices were provided for the two subsequent incidents, but it is noted that the students had to be extracted by the same elevator company, with some of the damage costs incurred from students jumping in the September 12th incident covered via a misdemeanor charge. 
  • Students & Parents Infuriated – Email conversations between top administrators at Westfield State University following the original incident in the left elevator at University Hall reveal that students and parents have been less than satisfied with the university’s response. The emails, redacted under Exception C to the Public Records Laws of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, note that there were two main complaints that students and parents had regarding the university’s response. First, the emergency button inside the University Hall elevator was disabled under order of the Department of Public Safety, meaning students had to rely on their cellular devices to reach someone for help – something that may not have been possible if one student was in the elevator and they did not have their phone on them. Second, one parent who called the university noted that her daughter was “hung up on twice” while trying to reach the Department of Public Safety, with the dispatchers being judgmental and rude once they did speak with her daughter.  

Following these incidents, the university has mandated that a maximum of five people be allowed in the University Hall elevators at any one time, with signs put up in front of each elevator on the five levels of the residence hall. Students may contact the Department of Public Safety for questions regarding this order. In the meantime, students are advised to watch their behavior to ensure that these incidents do not happen again. 

IMAGE: Interior of one of the elevators in University Hall, Photo Credits: Daniel Currier

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