Subject to more criticism than a socialist at a Lincoln Day dinner, the University Maintenance Department does the best possible job supplying the demands of administrators, faculty, and students. In days of constantly rising labor and material costs, an agency designed to provide day in and day out repair while answering any and all emergency calls cannot please the faculty or administrative department with a College-limited budget; or the student activity group which must make its unsubsidized books balance.
Complaints against maintenance are legion--the case of the nine dollar chair which is repaired for seven; the piano moved after the dance for twenty-five; or the spot on the wall which gets the room painted, at a cost resented whether high or low. All typical of the popular gripes, they are usually followed by charges of padding, graft, mismanagement and outright corruption. A closer study points to a different picture. The chair doubtless required several hours work by a skilled carpenter in addition o the time expended in transportation form the House or office to the maintenance building--and this hardly touches the cost of materials. The piano was probably moved as a result of a last minute call--on overtime--while even the unaesthetic will agree that any attempt to repair a spotted wall by painting the spots only succeeds in changing their color.
Except for punitive reasons decided by the Administrative Board no charge is greater than the standard which is figured on a basis of cost of labor plus cost of material, plus twenty-five percent overhead. Opening a fire door or breaking a window comes under official censure and entails a fine as well ad replacement. The skeptic who views twenty-five percent overhead with wincing eye might be reminded that no professional contractor operates even near this margin nor has he any urge to try.
It is unfortunate that Maintenance cannot provide service at a suitable price to every group which needs work done. The Department must make ends meet and student activities such as Freshman Committees or Dramatic Clubs, which are not paying from a University-allocated budget, cannot afford Maintenance service even at the cost rate. In the past they have relied on the dubious expedient of student employment, sometimes successful, sometimes not. Recent, history records patrons sweeping the floor of the Union after the dancers, committee men, and student help had left the Jubilee scene.
This particular kind of problem recurs every year for many groups and could profitably undergo study by a Student Council committee. Such a committee might well expedite the process of securing dependable student help and of guaranteeing extra-curricular maintenance service at a price harried student treasurers can consider. In any event it would assume responsibility for a problem University Maintenance cannot handle, and incidentally, dispel much of the sincere but misled criticism now heaped on that department.