Prompting more concerns over campus accessibility, the elevator in the Administration Building has suffered a “catastrophic failure,” according to Brian Mast, director of facilities at Goshen College. The elevator is not expected to be operational again this academic year.

After students left at the end of the fall semester, the elevator’s hydraulic system lost a significant amount of fluid. This left the system’s pump without cooling fluid, and it began to overheat.

“The way it went out was a little dramatic,” Mast said. “Smoke started coming out of the elevator equipment room, and the fire department was called.”

The elevator uses a massive piston to push the car up and let it back down, run by the hydraulic pump. The piston is contained in a metal and concrete cylinder that runs 30 feet below ground. 

During normal operation, fluid gets pumped into the cylinder, forcing the piston — and the elevator — up. But in this case, the fluid seemingly disappeared.

Speaking about Otis Elevators, the group that maintains every elevator on campus, Mast said, “They did some investigation. They’ve hoisted the cab up high enough so they can see into the pit, and there’s no oil in the pit — which means that … somehow, the oil has leaked out of the cylinder.”

Because the cylinder is faulty, it has to be pulled up and replaced. Simple in theory, but in practice, removing a 30-foot cylinder with an elevator sitting on top poses some issues. 

Otis now has to cut the cylinder and remove it piece-by-piece — the alternative would be pulling the cylinder (and the elevator) completely out of the shaft, six stories into the air.

So it’s no surprise that Mast doesn’t expect the elevator to be reopening this semester.

But the elevator is the only way to access most of the classrooms in the building without using stairs. So Mast worked with Cynthia Good Kaufmann, director of planning and events, and Michelle Blank, accessibility coordinator, to relocate classes that would have proved difficult to access. 

Sara Method, art professor, taught a class scheduled to be on the third floor. 

“I had a student that … needed elevator access,” she said. “My art history class had specific needs because I needed … to be able to control the outside light coming in.” 

Her classes were moved to the third floor of Wyse, where the elevator is currently working.

Hermione Bean-Mills, a senior history major, was one of the students impacted by the change. 

“I was emailed by Michelle Blank about a week before classes started,” Bean-Mills said, “and she told me the elevator was closed indefinitely.” 

Bean-Mills suffers from joint issues and asthma, and said that the move to Wyse has made going to class much easier. “There would have been days where I would be physically incapable of getting to class.”

“It was kind of confusing the first day,” said Karmen Campos, a junior social work major. But, she says that the room change has been the best solution.