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ISSUE 118 VOL 10 PUBLISHED 12/3/2004

Cleaning up, forming friendships

By Lauren Radomski
Variety Editor

Friday, December 3, 2004

Imagine stepping out of your dorm room one morning only to discover trash overflowing its bin, toilet paper missing from the bathroom stalls and a mound of snow blocking the entrance to your building. St. Olaf students are spared these situations thanks to the efforts of the college'’s hardworking custodial staff.

These 65 people help to create a pleasant atmosphere for students, faculty and visitors alike. Without their dedication and high-quality work, St. Olaf would be a much different place. While many students and faculty appreciate the work of the custodians, few realize all that these people do.

A different number of custodians work in each building, depending on the building'’s size. Custodians who work in residence halls have different hours from those who work in buildings such as Buntrock Commons or Skoglund Athletic Center. No matter the location, the job is flexible enough to allow custodians to determine what needs to be done and how best to do it.

Cindy Woods has been part of the custodial staff for about five years. As one of Skoglund'’s five custodians, she works Tuesday through Saturday evenings. According to Woods, custodians "get to know what the building needs." When she arrives for work, Woods observes what has and has not been accomplished yet, and can pick up where another member of the custodial staff left off. She enjoys keeping busy and hates "the thought of knowing that you'’re going to run out of something to do."

Many residence hall custodians, such as Deb Norberg, begin work at 6 a.m. Monday through Friday mornings. With the exception of two short breaks, one at 9 a.m. and another at noon, these custodians are busy until 2 p.m. with tasks ranging from cleaning windows to changing light bulbs. For Norberg, who works in Thorson, these hours are ideal because they allow her to spend the afternoon and evening with her family.

In addition to keeping the interior of the buildings clean, custodians are also responsible for snow shoveling. Members of the grounds staff clear snow from most areas of campus, but custodians shovel near the entrances of residence halls and other buildings. Even on weekends, when residence hall custodians are not scheduled to work, they come to shovel if it snows.

Custodians can also be called in to work at any time if there is an emergency, such as an accident or a flood. Many custodians typically work extra hours over busy weekends throughout the year, and more custodians will be working this weekend due to Christmas Festival.

When asked about their favorite part of the job, many custodians described their interactions with students. Norberg says she loves visiting with students, getting to know where they are from and what their interests are.

Students enjoy these conversations as well. Marie Olson '07, a Thorson resident, said, “"[Norberg is] really fun to chat with, asking me about how school is going and telling me a little about her grandkids. She does a great job and her work is so appreciated. She always has a smile and ‘hello’ for us and it just brightens the day."

Woods thinks that many students see their custodians as parental figures. "Most, but not all, of the custodians are about the age of students'’ parents," she said. "This enables a student to relate to a custodian differently than he or she would to a JC or RA."

Mandy Frank '07 lived in Hoyme last year, where Woods was one of the custodians, and expressed similar feelings. "[Woods] was always so nice and caring. Having her in the dorm made it more homey; it was like having a mom who wouldn’'t get mad at you living in a dorm," she said.

In Woods'’ experience, when something negative happens, like a large mess or a pipe leak, students tend to be upset about it. Woods recalled several "very irate students" when Hoyme'’s fire extinguishers were used on the building’'s lounge last year. She says she has learned not to take messes personally.

"It is bad that bad things take such precedence in people'’s minds," Woods said. "I’'ve had a really good experience."

Norberg says that there is something students could improve on, mentioning that "the students don'’t recycle as much as they could." Not only is recycling beneficial to the environment, but cans and bottles in the trash make trash bags heavier for the custodians, she said.

Woods hopes people will continue to interact with the custodial staff.

"I think everyone should take the time to get to know their custodian," Woods said. "We have some really unique people here."

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