It’s the Machines (and Housing) vs. Us

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Prolific Bwog tipster Jon Hill has just notified Bwog of an enchanting electrical set-up in the bowels of the John Jay laundry room that would put the efforts of the Disneyland electrical parade to shame.  In the carefully crafted email seen below, it appears that the entirety of the dorm’s laundry machinery is hardwired to a single electrical through a delicate line-by-line connection of increasingly snarled extension cords. Note shocking (!) image to the right.

This perhaps flawed electrical set up is coupled with recent reports from CUIT’s head of information security of phishing attacks made on Columbia Cubmail accounts. It seems emails from Nigerian princes asking you send money in order to receive your lottery winnings might be of questionable intent. This led some Bwog editors to wonder about how safe are we really? If we’re not safe in the John Jay laundry room or on the interwebs, which places does that leave us? Barnard? Bwog thinks not.

Both emails after the jump

Bwog editors – 

I was doing laundry in the John Jay washroom tonight and happened to notice one of the small doors in the corner there was ajar. I’ve only seen it closed, so I took a look inside to see what was behind the wall. 

It’s a crawlspace behind the dryers where repairmen (or repairwomen, as we work toward the national dream of gender equality) can access the backs of the machines and hook up their electrical cords, attach vent pipes, etc. 

But what caught my interest was the way the power cords from the bank of dryers have been jury-rigged to a single electrical outlet. I snapped some shots with cameraphone and have attached them to this message. 

You’ll note that three dryers have been plugged into one rather wimpy-looking power strip, which is then plugged into a single outlet. 

I did some research, and several government consumer safety Web sites suggest that a single power strip of this sort not carry more than a ~1600 watt load. One site in particular said that “they are not to be used as extension cords … [or] for high power demand equipment.” 

Surely a single dryer would qualify as high power demand, let alone three! 

What’s going on down there in the basement? Am I going to have to wake up someday soon at 3 a.m. to evacuate because of an electrical fire started by an overloaded power strip? Doesn’t our $45,000+ a year give Columbia enough financial wiggle-room to afford proper wiring for a few dryers? 

– Jon Hill

 CC ’11 

Recently, Columbia has been targeted by a “phishing” attack.  Identity theft

spam and scams are becoming more sophisticated — Columbia affiliates have

received messages telling them they must report their password (via email)

or risk having their CubMail access disabled.  You should never email your

password or any other private information (e.g. credit card number, social

security number), and Columbia will never ask you to. 

While our spam filters are very good, they are not perfect.  You need to

be on the lookout for Identity theft scams. 

* Don’t be fooled – never send your password by email to anyone. 

* Banks and financial institutions will never ask for your account numbers,

pins or passwords by email. 

* Never enter your credit information into a non secured web page.  A secured

web page starts with https:// (note the “S” for “Secure”) and will display a

lock on the browser frame. 

* Don’t fall for stories about winning the lottery or promises of money from

relatives you are unaware of.  If the story sounds too good to be true, it

is a scam. 

* See security.columbia.edu for other security information.

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  1. colum  

    thing in john jay laundry is not surprising. i've found that maintenance at columbia is highly inconsistent. holes in dorm walls are repaired in the laziest, crudest way. larger renovations to dorms are often also done cheaply/incompetently (see 47 Claremont).

    columbia does these things on the cheap. they should just spend more money on these things and get them right first time.

  2. Charlie

    Mistakes? We don't make mistakes.

  3. seriously

    maintenance is atrocious. rats, leaks, what have you--Columbia ignores or sweeps under the rug.

    it's humiliating.

  4. renovations  

    Housing should just start picking one or two dorms per summer to do full renovations/repairs on.

    Then again, Columbia is a creepy slumlord. They own student housing both in Washington and Morningside Heights and in an effort to amass more (because housing entices students to come to the university), they neglect to take care of what they already have. Perhaps when/if Columbia is insanely rich, after they eliminate tuition for everyone not in the top 1% of incomes and build a campus in the middle east, they'll finally rebuild housing.

  5. bwog

    can we get a little investigative reporting with housing?

    this is obviously a serious safety hazard and needs to be fixed.

  6. i'd be curious  

    to know what the size of the housing maintenance staff is when compared to other residential or corporate buildings in the city. it always seemed to me like they basically have enough resources to take care of one building but they are responsible for all the buildings.

  7. ignoramus  

    i don't think it is necessarily that dangerous?

    probably that's because am majoring in english and i don't know what i'm talking about.

    but my point is we need some more science here to tell us exactly why this is a problem.

  8. another view

    Maybe the lazy union employees are to blame. Surely if the University could spend more money on maintenance rather than maintenance men, the situation could be different... Or if union electricians could be fired for gross negligence in setting up the laundry room in such a manner...

    This is the law of unintended consequences as it relates to the "living wage"

  9. all this  

    phishing talk is a major bummer. come up with a new word...don't just steal it from the greatest band ever! and listen to WBAR on wednesdays from 2-4 pm.

  10. i dont think  

    that having a living wage actually correlates to laziness. workers may or may not be lazy or they may or may not have committed gross negligence, but i really doubt that is in any way connected to their union status.

  11. laundry rooms  

    are tough. housing supervises them. in there is a water or electrical issue, it is delegated to facilities. the laundry machines themselves are owned and maintained by mac-gray. hence, when the rooms get cleaned (by CUF) they never clean the machines because they aren't supposed to be touching the machines.

    so the short answer is that that's probably the doing of a mac-gray guy who came to setup a washer, then found that another outlet was busted and wasn't of the level of thoroughness to tell housing who would tell cuf to come and fix the electrical sockets.

    • Anonymous  

      Laundry room? I'm surprised no one's chatting it up over the fact that the entrance to the room is located in between the main power grid and a bunch of pipes and motors, with conductive metal mesh as the divide.

  12. main power grid?  

    those are just the phone and ethernet lines for john jay, don't kid yourself

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