You make it into the nearest seat just as the professor walks into the room. As you wait for class to start, you look around the room and you realize how clean it is. The blackboards are fully erased and washed. Solely by running your eyes around the room, you can tell that there are no papers lying around, and that the room is just not dirty.
Right, you remember, it’s Monday. The room hasn’t been used since Friday. However, you suddenly recall that the classrooms and lecture halls at Amherst are always that clean-the boards are always washed. Try as you might, you can not tell what class went on in that room yesterday. There is no garbage or paper lying around and the bathrooms in the building look as though they haven’t been used.
And when you return to your room after your 50-minute nap through class, you notice that the pizza boxes and empty beer cans are gone, the showers are scrubbed and the chairs in the lounge are all neat and orderly.
Who is responsible for keeping Amherst so neat? Surely, you think, it cannot be the students, especially judging by the condition of their dorm rooms. There must be someone behind the scenes who spends time preparing the academic buildings for those early morning classes and who ensures that our dorm buildings are clean and livable.
The Amherst College Custodial and Special Services do, in fact, spend their time making the College a comfortable place for living and academic work. Working on campus any given weekday morning are 42 full-time staff members, with three more coming in to do weekend clean up.
“The custodial staff is responsible for all the cleaning in all of the academic and residential halls on campus,” said Assistant Director of Custodial and Special Services Mick Koldy. At the College, the same custodians clean both the academic and residential buildings. “Custodians work from 6 a.m. until 9 a.m. vacuuming, dusting, recycling and arranging special setups in some of the classrooms while students are in the residential halls, showering and getting ready,” Koldy said.
“We’ve been pretty successful in doing the schedule so the classrooms are ready when you need them and we can move into the dorms and professors’ offices when they are empty,” he said.
For the most part, custodians are assigned to one academic building and one dormitory. The assigned buildings are closely situated so that if the custodian has to go back and forth between the buildings, it does not take a lot of extra time. Things are more difficult in inclement weather, since the same custodial staff who cleans the academic and residential halls also does the majority of snow shoveling.
Over the weekend, the custodial department does mostly touch-up work. “The goal is to get all the trash out of all the dormitories and to clean the common space as well: in Valentine, in the Campus Center and sometimes at Alumni House, if necessary,” said Koldy.
“Students are messier over the weekend. Sometimes there is vomit or urine that needs to be cleaned up immediately which means the weekend staff might not get to take out all the trash. That makes Mondays hard because there is extra to do and it takes the custodians longer to get their work done,” Koldy said. “The majority of students are respectful. It’s the vocal minority whose actions show their disrespect.”
As we all know, certain buildings at the College are infamous for their party atmosphere. “[Consistent parties] become a respect issue towards the custodian,” said Koldy. “The custodian may not take it personally, but it becomes a challenge for an individual to come in every day and clean up the same party over and over again.”
Koldy stressed that the custodial office does not stand on its own against constant party clean up. “The Dean of Students Office is excellent about supporting us. If we need to, we’ll pull the residents together to tell them that this is out of control,” he said.
“Our staff on weekdays notice when the weekend staff have been challenged and have not been able to get to all of their buildings; but given the limited resources we have on the weekend, we do an excellent job,” Koldy said.
Despite causing the majority of headaches and hassles for the College’s custodial staff, students generally have a very positive attitude towards their building’s custodians. “Fred is the man,” declared Byron Boneparth ’06. “I have a lot of respect for anyone who can keep Appleton as clean as he keeps it while maintaining such a great attitude.”
Fred is not the only well-liked custodian on campus. Jay Gilliam ’04 lived in James Hall two years ago, and thinks highly of custodian Touch Ouk, who currently works in Newport House. “I’ve had the same custodian since freshman year. Touch is a cool guy. He’s very considerate,” said Gilliam.
Andre Deckrow ’06 has spent some time getting to know first-hand that members of the custodial staff are real people, with real interests. “[Custodian] Bill [Kieras] is one of the nicest people here. He goes out of his way to make sure everything is perfect, and he is always willing to share his thoughts on Sunday’s Patriots game,” Deckrow said.
So next the time you lean over the toilet preparing to boot, just take a moment, if you can, to appreciate just how clean that toilet bowl is, and how clean it will be come noon the next day.