Students thank custodial staff for their work
About 1,600 employees work for University Facilities and Capital Planning (UFCP), taking care of more than 1,000 buildings spread across the different campuses at Rutgers, but few receive recognition for their work.
Residents rarely thank the custodian and maintenance staff who keep halls clean and functional, said Vladimir Carrasco, a School of Arts and Sciences first-year student. So along with representatives from other residence halls, he planned “Staff Appreciation Day” for students to recognize the work involved and open a dialogue between them and staff members.
“Essentially it’s a general day to show appreciation, and each hall government is doing it differently,” he said.
The Lynton Towers and Quad 1 on Livingston campus are both hosting events on the morning of Nov. 20, and others may be held in the Bishop Quad on College Avenue campus and Katzenbach Hall on Douglass campus, he said. The different buildings will each hold their own events.
The Livingston Quad will have a panel where students can discuss any issues they have with staff members, he said. At the same time, staff members would be able to make requests to the students to ease their jobs.
“We hope to be able to establish a form of discourse so we’re able to voice our issues, and they can also say what they want from us,” he said.
Instead of a panel, the Towers would hold a breakfast event on Friday morning, said William Cheng, a School of Arts and Sciences first-year student and Residence Hall Association (RHA) representative. The resident assistants on each floor are encouraged to create cards and banners to give to the staff.
“We thought they were doing an awesome job,” he said. “During the first two weeks the bathrooms were horrendous but then the staff came and cleaned it up.”
This differs from what the Quads saw, Carrasco said. Students in the Quads hope to start a dialogue to help make a cleaner building.
Broken bathroom stall doors, fruit flies in the halls and bottles remaining in sinks are some of the issues reported from the Quads, Cheng said. These concerns were voiced during the RHA general assembly meeting.
“We had issues where things weren’t getting fixed fast enough,” Carrasco said. “We don’t want to create a conflict so we’ll show appreciation instead of demanding things ... and think of a resolution to the problem.”
These problems originally inspired the idea of holding an event, he said. Students reached out to staff members to plan the event.
“Our goal is to foster a better relationship ... we feel like we need to create a better relationship between the students, the hall government and the staff first before we do anything,” Cheng said.
The RHA events coincide with National Staff Appreciation Day, said Dianne Gravatt, assistant vice president of Operations at UFCP. Her department oversees maintenance and custodial staff.
Students thank a staff member verbally and with a handshake as part of the day, she said in an email.
Another concern Carrasco’s group had was with reported staff layoffs, he said. While they have nothing to do with Staff Appreciation Day, it is a concern they thought about while planning the day.
While there have been budget cuts, the cuts did not impact custodial staff members, Gravatt said.
“The entire University budget has been cut across all departments fairly,” she said. “We have not laid any Maintenance Operations off (but) we have reallocated staff appropriately.”
No building on campus has a set number of staff members who take care of it, and the number of people who work in a building changes due to several reasons, including the season, she said.
A buildings' needs are another factor in determining how many staff members will be assigned to it at a particular time, she said.
As members of the hall government, Carrasco said it was their job to ensure students were happy, including coordinating discussions like these with staff members who may normally not interact with residents.
“We’re the Residence Hall Association, we’re supposed to take care of the issues that happen in our (buildings) and make sure the students feel where we live is not a dorm but a residence hall,” he said. “It’s not just a place where you come to sleep, but a place where you grow as a person.”