Everyone remembers their first trip to Powell Library: the imposing structure, vaulted ceilings and ornate decorations coming together to create the quintessential college experience. But for many, that picture shatters the moment they attempt to use the restroom after their first all-night study session – only to find a postapocalyptic scene characterized by toilet paper strewn everywhere, floors coated in a film of grimy water and neon-green plastic bags indicating that the toilets are once again broken.
This week I braved the stench and observed daily the conditions in some of UCLA’s most trafficked bathrooms. It is evident that UCLA Facilities Management regularly cleans the bathrooms, but in high-traffic areas like Powell, this regular cleaning is not nearly enough. This leaves students with no choice but to hopscotch around bathrooms because of their abhorrent conditions.
UCLA needs to shed its lethargy and invest more resources in its highly trafficked bathrooms for the safety and comfort of its student population, as well as for the sake of its all-important public image.
Nauseating bathrooms are nothing new to students. Just ask Ramneek Singh, a second-year financial actuarial mathematics student, who highlighted the frequent uncleanliness of Powell’s bathrooms.
But to convert this common knowledge into hard data, I rated the high-trafficked bathrooms on a scale from one to five, with one being the cleanest and five being the dirtiest. A variety of factors went into the assessment, including cleanliness of floors, toilets and sinks. Like any attempt to represent qualitative factors quantitatively, there was some subjectivity in the model. However, the observations of myself and others speak for themselves.
Some of the worst offenders were the bathrooms at Powell and Young Research Library. For example, a toilet in Young Research Library was out of order for the entire week. Underneath the green trash bag, a putrid cocktail of sewage produced an odor that would offend even the strongest of constitutions. In the basement of Powell, multiple sinks were filled with dripping paper towels and two of the toilets were clogged with a brown-tinted mass of paper.
[Related: The Quad: UCLA’s best bathrooms for any situation]
These observations and experiences should raise a few eyebrows at facilities management, which is tasked with regularly cleaning these bathrooms. Having to avoid pools of dirty water or walking into a stall only to find a toilet filled to the brim with a nauseating concoction can make the hours spent studying at libraries even more unpleasant for students. And this is especially true when many students make use of the 24-hour study space provided almost year-round at Powell and Young Research Library toward the end of the quarter.
The bathrooms are not only uncomfortable for students, but they can also hurt the university’s public image. Powell Library is a historic site and a tourist destination for many visitors to our campus. As a result, its facilities directly affect the public perception of the school. When visitors are faced with filthy floors and decrepit infrastructure, it reflects poorly on the university.
Frankly, students are tired of the administration ignoring these blatant issues. Many feel like the administration needs to do more, especially in the face of rising tuition costs.
“It’s very simple,” said Diego Hernandez, a third-year economics student. “I feel like the administration should feel obligated to make sure the maintenance of the bathrooms is up to par. We’re all paying tuition here, so this is something we’re paying for.”
Facilities management does clean these bathrooms, but it is obvious that they are not doing enough. High-traffic bathrooms deserve extra attention. For these bathrooms, UCLA Facilities Management should allocate a permanent staff to focus on keeping these areas clean. This staff should clean these high-traffic areas more regularly during the day, year-round. Furthermore, during midterms and finals week, this staff should allocate night and weekend janitors to 24-hour use areas in order to account for higher student demand of the restrooms.
UCLA Facilities Management did not respond to multiple requests for comments.
Of course, students bear some responsibility for the state of the bathrooms. They should be more considerate when it comes to use of the facilities, especially during peak times.
“We need to be conscious of the people who clean,” said Hannah Goldberg, a second-year human biology and society student.
But simply being considerate won’t solve all the bathroom problems. Broken toilets, sitting water and overflowing trash cans are all signs of undermanagement. Thus, the crux of the issue is that these restrooms are not being maintained enough.
The administration is capable of doing it – just look to the UCLA Meyer and Renee Luskin Conference Center. This 250-room hotel has the most pristine bathrooms on campus. Not a piece of trash is ever on the floor, the trash is always taken out and the bathrooms are even complete with a relaxing aroma. When comparing this to the state of the bathrooms frequented by students, it is clear that this is just another example of UCLA prioritizing the experience of wealthy donors over students. It is clearly visible that the university has the ability to properly maintain high-traffic restrooms – they just are not.
While it is impossible to expect pristine bathrooms in such high-traffic areas as Powell and Young Research Library, the status quo is not acceptable. UCLA desperately needs to allocate more resources to these bathrooms. UCLA Facilities Management must form a specific team dedicated to the maintenance of high-traffic restrooms. This would bypass the unnecessary bureaucracy of these different departments having to negotiate with facilities and create a uniform standard of cleanliness for our most visible restrooms.
In a school that prides itself on the health and wellness of its students, it is unacceptable that the restrooms are lacking adequate maintenance. UCLA needs to change this and invest more into the upkeep of high-traffic restrooms. Maybe then, we can bring some dignity back to UCLA – one bathroom at a time.