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NMSU campus infrastructure needs repairs

Many college campuses around the country have a variety of physical obstacles that students must overcome when navigating the university. NMSU is no exception to this, as the university’s infrastructure has run into more and more problems over the years.

Along with issues such as automatic door openers not working on campus, there are also many streetlight outages, with a significant number of burned-out lightbulbs around one of the campus housing complexes, Chamisa Village.

The dark and gloomy sky shows a lighting outage near the Cervantes Village housing complex on the night of Feb. 2, 2024. Outages like these seem to be common across campus, especially in residential areas. (Photo by Marshall Mecham/Kokopelli)

Other parts of the campus have similar issues, such as the International Mall walkway and O’Donnell Hall. Nearby, along Stewart Street, potholes have endangered many drivers in their vehicles as well. Drivers must maneuver around the hazardous potholes or risk damaging their vehicles. The road has remained like this at least since the start of the 2022 academic year, and there have been no visible improvements since. 

According to NMSU’s associate vice president for Facilities and Services and chief facilities officer, Raghu Raghavan, the university is taking steps toward finding solutions for these problems.  

“NMSU has received one-time funding from the state for road repairs,” Raghavan said. “We are coordinating repairs and resealing the main campus streets as part of the project associated with the one-time funding. Stewart Street will definitely be at the top of the list. Additionally, our structural maintenance shop receives funding to repair potholes annually. Roadways are a component of our aging infrastructure and exceeding its intended design life.” 

After a recent walkthrough of the NMSU campus, Kokopelli staff members discovered that several automatic door openers were either malfunctioning or completely out of order. These oversights can lead to feelings of isolation among students with disabilities and make it difficult for them to attend their classes. 

The list below demonstrates what the Kokopelli staff found when inspecting automatic door openers on campus Feb. 9, 2024: 

  • Milton Hall: All automatic door openers were functioning. 
  • Communication Sciences Building: On the first floor, the exterior button works, but the door opens very slowly and seems like it might soon need maintenance. 
  • Zuhl Library: Both exterior buttons at the front entrance worked.
  • Hardman and Jacobs Undergraduate Learning Center: The main entrance exterior button worked. 
  • Domenici Hall: The main entrance across from Frenger Food Court worked. 
  • Skeen Hall: The main entrance automatic door opener did not work. 
  • Garcia Hall: The main entrance automatic door opener did not work. 
  • O’Donnell Hall: All automatic door openers worked. 
  • Jett Hall: All automatic door openers worked. 
  • Foster Hall: The main entrance does not have an automatic door opener. 
  • Health and Social Services Building: The exterior door opener does not work. 
  • Gerald Thomas Hall: There are no automatic door openers. 
  • Guthrie Hall: The interior door opener worked. 

“The access control shop has an annual preventive maintenance check of all automatic door openers on campus,” Raghavan said. “The facilities operations leadership team also checks automatic door openers when they attend meetings in our campus buildings. If we find one inoperable, a work order is generated to make the necessary repairs. If our team is unable to make the repair, they will contract with a local vendor to make the necessary repairs.” 

The university has three locksmiths on staff to service the 6 million gross square feet of campus grounds, he said.  

“Automatic door openers receive a top priority,” Raghavan said. “They receive attention the day after a problem is reported if a technician is unable to respond the same day. If our technician is unable to correct the problem, it is contracted to a local vendor via a purchase order which extends the time to repair the unit. The purchasing process and vendor availability are outside of our control, which makes it difficult to quantify the time [it takes] to make the repairs.” 

Besides campus accessibility, there’s also the concern of whether the streets, walkways and parking lots have adequate lighting for students and staff who need to navigate the university at night.

A lighting outage in the parking lot outside Gerald Thomas Hall creates a dark environment for NMSU students and staff on Feb. 9, 2024. (Photo by Adam Palomino/Kokopelli)

The Kokopelli staff’s walkthrough of the campus uncovered a string of outdoor light poles with burned-out lightbulbs along the east side of Zuhl Library and north of the library between Zuhl and Milton Hall. According to faculty members, these lights have been out for several years.

Chamisa Village also had a significant number of its lights out along Stewart Street and Locust Street. These lights have been out at least since the spring 2023 semester. This neglect in maintaining the lighting across campus creates a safety risk for students and staff. 

Kokopelli published a report on campus infrastructure and maintenance delays in October 2022. Then Director of Facilities Maintenance Paul Ponce reported in 2022 that he and his team walk the campus at night once or twice a year to ensure everything is working properly, and said the problems are “not conscious neglect.” 

Raghu Raghavan, who did not begin working for NMSU until after the October 2022 report was published, made a similar statement regarding maintenance delays, and indicated his team was unaware of the lighting issues around Zuhl Library. “We partner with our campus community to help provide a safe environment,” Raghavan said. “Once we self-identify a deficiency or receive notification from the campus community regarding a safety item, our team generates a work order to investigate and correct the problem. This is the first our team has heard about the lights between Milton and Zuhl being out of service.”  

The campus community may report out-of-service items by contacting the Facilities and Services Work Order Desk or emailing FSWorkorder@nmsu.edu 

“Facilities operations partners with the NMSU Police Department to identify street light outages,” Raghavan said. “We receive the patrol pass-down notes when the police department finds streetlights and parking lot lights out of service during their nightly patrols. Additionally, the operations team conducts an annual light walk in November to check the streetlights and exterior building lights for proper operation.” 

A half-dozen light poles immediately north and east of Zuhl Library have reportedly been burned out for years, creating a very dark environment for pedestrians walking from Frenger Mall to the faculty, staff and visitor parking lots east of Zuhl Library and Milton Hall. (Photo by Adam Palomino/Kokopelli)

Kokopelli staff took another campus walkthrough on Feb. 21, 2024, and found that all the lights in the Chamisa Village and NMSU Activity Center parking lot were still burned out, along with multiple street lights near Stewart Street and Locust Street. Even though this might cause a serious issue for people in the area, some students do not mind the inconvenience.  

“I don’t mind the lighting outages that much,” said NMSU student Jacob Lara. “Light pollution helps me see better at night anyway, so the [campus] lighting outages do not affect me.” 

Despite the pending issue with on-campus lighting, it should be noted that the light poles around all the major parking lots only had a few burned-out lightbulbs and were otherwise bright and functioning properly. 

NMSU has been experiencing many issues when dealing with lighting outages, broken automatic door openers, and unsafe potholes on campus for years. However, university officials continue to state they are trying to maintain the campus infrastructure with what appears to be limited resources and funding. 

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