Three students in Residence Hall Northwest were trapped in a study room for nearly three hours after the doorknob malfunctioned, forcing maintenance staff to break through a wall in order to safely extract them.
Computer engineering freshman Colton Mikeska and two of his friends were studying during the evening of Sept. 18. The doorknob to the study room had recently been replaced and was working properly throughout the night. When the group tried to leave, however, Mikeska was unable to open the door. Passing residence hall staff members were also unable to open the door from the outside. While calls were being made, the staff attempted to maintain a calm atmosphere.
“What (the staff) did was really nice — they called the residence hall coordinator, and in the meantime, they grabbed some dry-erase markers and a rag, and we had one marker in there, so they just started drawing on the windows and playing hangman with us,” Mikeska said.
A maintenance crew arrived 30 minutes after the incident was reported and determined that door could not be opened from the outside and, therefore, the team would have to resort to alternative methods.
“The maintenance guy and the coordinator started talking a bit and one of the PAs started drawing a diagram on the window of two walls — us in one of the walls and them in the other,” Mikeska said. “So we’re thinking, ‘They’re really gonna bust through the wall!’ And they did. Apparently, it was cheaper and more efficient than breaking the glass door.”
A maintenance staff member used a mallet to break a hole into the drywall between the study room and the office adjacent to it. He then pushed a ladder through the opening and climbed into the study room, at which point he was able to free the students by removing the entire locking mechanism. Matt Grief, the associate vice president for student affairs, said the university is making efforts to ensure this incident is not repeated.
“We’ve actually gone back and evaluated all the door handles on those doors to make sure they’re functioning properly,” he said. “This is out of the ordinary, so I feel like the staff quickly responded to it and addressed it as quickly as they could.”
Mikeska said the most disappointing aspect of the experience was not being able to make a more dramatic escape.
“It was really just an inconvenience at most,” Mikeska said. “Whenever they said they were busting through the wall, we thought we were going to be the ones making the escape out instead of them coming in, which was a little bit of a disappointment. But at least we got out.”