Foundation behind Ferris

Custodial Supervisor Kevin Jackson files paperwork and Delegates employees from his office. Photo by: Amelia Reed | Torch Photographer

Sidewalks are salted on cold winter mornings, dorm rooms are thoroughly cleaned during the summer and broken objects are repaired in a timely manner.

Such jobs are necessary for Ferris to function the way that it does. These jobs, however, don’t get completed on their own. While we may not always see the work that is done, the men and women at Facilities Management still work tirelessly to support our university.

“FSU’s Facilities Management organization is responsible for the development, enhancement, maintenance and stewardship of the university’s physical environment,” Chad Stirrett, Associate Vice President of Facilities Management, said. 

Facilities Management covers a wide range of jobs and responsibilities including, but not limited to, custodial services, maintenance, plumbing, electrical, carpentry, motor pool, locksmithing, grounds keeping, construction and renovations.

Ever since the very first outbreak of COVID-19, Facilities Management has gone above and beyond. Not only has every team taken on additional work to help make sure that students and staff are protected, they have also powered through the setbacks of major budget cuts and layoffs over the past two years.

“We are the frontline for disinfection and cleaning. Our job is to keep students healthy and safe,” Kevin Jackson, Custodial Supervisor for Facilities Management, said. 

When Ferris shut down due to COVID-19 in the spring semester of 2020, Facilities Management stayed behind and worked tirelessly to disinfect, clean, and maintain the university in effort to keep students, staff and faculty healthy.

“If there is one thing that COVID has done, it’s provided recognition to front lines staff, reinforcing that they are essential to the university,” Stirrett said.

Prior to getting to know staff members working for Ferris’ Facilities management, most people might not understand how essential they truly are. For each object on campus there must also be at least one person who understands how to repair, maintain and clean it.

“Think of the 90-100 buildings that are on campus that have to be maintained by half a dozen people,” Tom Potrykus, Supervisor of Carpentry, Paint and Locksmith, said. “We’ve got two locksmiths, so they’re taking care of all the locks, and we’ve got three carpenters to take care of everything from ceiling repairs, to doors, to hardware, to you name it. That’s all there is… Any major repairs are done by the carpentry staff.”

Over the past few years, Facilities Management has taken several massive budget cuts and has been forced to downsize several times. Despite this, they have persevered. 

“We won, in 2018, a distinguished staff award,” Jackson said. “We totally revamped the working level within the residence halls because of downsizing. We’ve maintained a 97% approval rating with students living inside the residence halls.”

One of the most difficult realities that Facilities Management has had to face recently is the workload brought on by COVID-19 and the budget cuts combined. With new regulations put in place by Ferris and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, commonly used tools, workspaces and items must be regularly disinfected. This greatly slows the work process for all.

Custodial Services, on the other hand, took on the responsibility of being the front-line defenders for students and staff against COVID-19. Each building on campus is regularly cleaned and disinfected to insure the health and safety of the students, faculty and staff on campus. With such a small staff, keeping such a large campus in tip top shape is no easy feat. Nevertheless, they still manage to maintain and improve the university with each passing day.

“The thing that I would ask for is just a little bit of understanding,” Potrykus said. “If someone doesn’t get their waste basket emptied, you know, maybe they’re used to getting it emptied on a daily basis and now it’s every other day, or maybe it’s every week. I’d ask for some compassion and understanding from our end users, the customers, the faculty, staff and students. It’s because we’ve been hit so hard with budget cuts. We’re being asked to do more with less.”

Facilities Management receives 20-30 work orders on campus per day, which totals out to an average of nearly 200 work orders per week. Each work order is then prioritized by necessity and assigned to their respective crews.

“We always prioritize life safety first,” Joe Haupt, the senior project manager for Facilities Management, said. “If there’s something that can harm the students, faculty or staff members, that’s going to get addressed prior. Way before somebody that needs to get a lightbulb changed in their office.”

One of the biggest mottos for Facilities Management is that the students are their highest priority. Without them, they wouldn’t be here. However, the exact opposite is equally as true. The students at Ferris need Facilities Management, just as much as Facilities Management needs them.

Without Facilities Management, lawns would never be mowed, buildings would be in shambles and in complete disarray and living conditions would be unsafe. Thanks to Facilities Management, Ferris’ true foundation, the university has been standing tall and strong since 1884.