Shattuck elevator breaks, prompting accessibility concerns

Photo by Jenny Cho ’20  The Shattuck elevator broke on Sept. 5, causing multiple classes to change room locations until the issue is solved.

Photo by Jenny Cho ’20

The Shattuck elevator broke on Sept. 5, causing multiple classes to change room locations until the issue is solved.


On Wednesday, Sept. 5 at 2:50 p.m., smoke rose from beneath the elevator door in Shattuck Hall. The smoke triggered a fire alarm and Campus Police arrived on the scene. When the reporting officers entered the elevator machine room, located to the right of the elevator door on the ground floor of Shattuck, they noticed something that concerned them on many levels, according to Director of Facilities Management and Planning Paul Breen.

There was an oil spill in the machine room. Officers immediately shut down the elevator. “It’s a tricky situation that we’re still assessing,” said Breen. Breen explained that Shattuck Hall is a low-level building because it has only four floors.

Elevators in low-level buildings are hydraulic, meaning that they are powered by a piston which travels inside a cylinder. An electric motor pumps hydraulic oil into the cylinder to move the piston. The piston smoothly lifts the elevator cab and electrical valves control the release of the oil for its descent.

“There is a hole in the ground underneath Shattuck Hall that is as deep as the elevator is tall. This hole cuts through layers of dirt and rock. For reasons unknown, a hole has been found in the metal cylinder and hydraulic oil has been leaking out,” he said. “The way to fix it would be to take out the cylinder and replace it with an entirely new one, or place one over the one that’s there now to reinforce it.”

Facilities Management is working with Bay State Elevator Co. to address the problem. The elevator was first installed in 1993.

“The process is going to be dirty and loud with a lot of machinery involved. Right now we’re working with the elevator company about the feasibility of the fix,” said Breen.

Due to the design of the building, the elevator infrastructure and the active student life in Shattuck Hall, the fix could take several weeks. It could be as long as several months before it will be operational again.

“We’re trying to figure out if it’s possible to do between semesters,” said Breen. The inoperational elevator is affecting students who have class in the building.

“I recently had hip surgery so I’m on crutches right now,” said Fiona Chace-Donahue ’20. “I have a class on the second floor of Shattuck. Crutches and stairs, especially wet stairs because of all the rain, don’t really go well together.”

The first floor and the basement are accessible without stairs but concerns have been brought up about the inaccessibility of the second and the third floors, which for some students have become unreachable without an elevator.

Christian Gundermann, an associate professor of gender studies, teaches a class on the third floor of Shattuck Hall. “Not having a functional elevator in Shattuck made the room inaccessible for some of the students,” said Gundermann.

He was informed by the registrar that his Feminist and Queer Theory class was to be moved from Shattuck 318 to Clapp Laboratory. “We started this week on Tuesday in the new location. So we really only had one class in Shattuck,” he said.

Two other classes that were to be held on the third floor in room 318 were also moved. Abolitionist Dreams/Resistance, along with Reproductive Genetic Technologies will now take place in Clapp.

AccessAbility Services has said that they have taken steps to make the situation as accessible as possible and encouraged students to reach out if they are having trouble.