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ISSUE 117 VOL 12 PUBLISHED 3/5/2004

Refreshing presence

By Anonymous
Contributing Writer

Friday, March 5, 2004

Starting every morning at 5 a.m., the St. Olaf custodial staff devote time and elbow grease to ensure that St. Olaf looks its best. They often work behind the scenes, but they play a crucial role in maintaining a comfortable living and working environment.

Custodians' main duties depend on what building they work in. In the residence halls, they spend a good deal of time cleaning showers, hallways and lounges. In the academic buildings, the job involves getting classrooms ready for classes by cleaning chalk and white boards, replacing light bulbs and picking up trash. In the winter, custodians shovel snow from the steps of the chapel and some of the walkways.

In general, custodians seem fairly satisfied with their jobs. They say that St. Olaf is a good employer, offering good pay, job security and benefits.

Custodians' jobs aren't always pleasant -- cleaning bathrooms and tidying the residence halls after party weekends were cited as some of the worst aspects of the job.

Still, custodians tend to make light of the more unappetizing parts of their jobs. For instance, when students walk by apologizing for the mess they've made, Mellby custodian Bill Dugan jokes, "Don't worry about it. This is my job security."

How much does a typical St. Olaf student know about these gallant crusaders against filth? Do students appreciate all that they do?

Custodians expressed mixed opinions about the gratitude they receive. One Skoglund custodian, Jose Payes, had a positive opinion of the students. "Ninety-five or ninety-eight percent of students are friendly and appreciative," Payes said.

Honor House custodian Tara Olson, however, admitted good naturedly, "We custodians get a bad rap around here."

This may be due to the fact that many students don't get to know their custodians. While members of the Residence Life staff celebrate an annual "Custodian Appreciation Day, and make posters expressing students' thanks, many students still feel wary of approaching the custodial staff.

"I think it's awkward. They're doing their job, and you're trying to get ready for your class, Tracy Pedersen `07 said.

Other students cited different reasons for their lack of interaction with the custodians. "I don't even talk to my friends [let alone the custodians] at that time of morning, Beth Gillaspey`07 said.

The students who do spend time with custodians are very positive about their encounters. "Of everyone on campus, the custodians are some of the most authentic," Christie Gibbons `05 said. The custodians are also congenial about their relationships with students.

"The high point of my job is my relationships and friendships with students," Dugan said.

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