I once saw a student walking down a hall riddled with trash. Instead of picking it up, she complained that custodial workers were not doing their job.
When I heard her comments, I was disappointed to see a fellow student criticize a GW worker before lending a helping hand. It would have been quick and easy to help pick up trash. Students created the mess she complained about after all, and they should bear some of the responsibility for picking up after themselves.
GW’s custodial staff is responsible for cleaning common areas in residence halls, taking out the trash and cleaning student spaces around campus like the Marvin Center. They work hard to keep campus clean, and students should recognize and appreciate their value. Students do not need to show gratitude in significant ways, but a small “thank you” or wave would help workers feel like they are just as valuable as other campus employees.
In my experience, custodial workers are noticed more when there is a mess than when they do their jobs. Custodial workers operate behind the scenes and sometimes at night, so students might not pay attention to the fact that the campus is relatively clean unless they see something out of place or dirty. It is easier to thank a Vern Express driver or professor for their work, but custodial workers do not receive the same treatment. Regardless, students should understand the value of custodial staff, and they should make an effort to show appreciation by being kind to them.
I have heard students whine about trash in the halls or on tables in District House, saying the custodial staff is not doing their jobs. Cleaning may be part of their job, but it is also the responsibility of students to clean up after themselves. Deliberately creating or leaving a mess with the expectation that it will be cleaned up by someone else is a sign of disrespect to the custodial staff. They mostly clean the messes that students make, so students should be proactive and keep their spaces sanitary. It is just as much the responsibility of the students as it is of the custodial staff to keep areas clean.
There are some tasks, like emptying the trash from the trash rooms in residential buildings, that students cannot take care of themselves. In a situation in which the custodial staff happens to miss a day or even a week, students should be patient. Just like students, everyone has days where they make mistakes. If students expect professors to understand that mistakes happen, then students should also understand that custodial workers have separate lives that might prevent them from fulfilling everything in their job description in one day. Students should have the same patience for staff members that they expect others to have for them. They should be cognizant of the fact that complaining about the custodial staff to other staff members might mean unintentionally getting them reprimanded.
Students need to recognize that the custodial staff is doing them a service by keeping their working and living environments clean. They should not feel entitled to the services of the custodial staff simply because they work for the University. The Progressive Student Union has repeatedly called for the University to treat custodial staff better with higher pay, but students can also do their part and simply treat them better. If the University showed more appreciation for the custodial staff, then students might respect them more as well.
Custodial staffers should not have to earn higher pay to be more respected on campus. Students can contribute to the cause PSU leaders campaigned for with a simple “hello” or “thank you.”
Laya Reddy, a freshman majoring in political science and music, is an opinions writer.