Monday, February 20, 2012

Class Warfare: The Last Great Battle of the Residence Halls

Many moons ago, my department suffered a devastating class warfare that pitted the professional staff against the facilities staff. The battles were overwhelming, the outcome catastrophic so much so that the effects are still felt today. Okay, so that is a little dramatic; however, when I first asked about the division between residential life and the maintenance/custodial staffs, the response I got was just as over the top. A long time ago, before any of my peers were employed here, something happened that caused the facilities department to feel resentment towards residential life. The animosity was so strong that it made the “blue collar workers” feel like the “graduate degree holders” judged them negatively given their menial job descriptions.

None of this is true. Most likely the people who started the class warfare have long since retired, leaving behind a legacy of distrust and bitterness. Unfortunately, the real victims are those who are currently employed, on both sides, because it is almost impossible to work together without underlying tones of anger seeping through to the surface. When I first met with my building’s facilities managers, I was respectful, inquisitive, and eager to learn how I could help them have an easier time handling messy and destructive students. Our relationship started off positively and I had high hopes we would avoid the disasters about which I had already been warned.

Unfortunately, as the months past and the Common Area Damage increased, the custodial team began to blame me and my RAs for not taking a harder line against the residents. They began to make suggestions on how RAs should be patrolling the halls at all hours or sitting in the elevator to ensure no resident dumped another soda bottle. I politely listened, reminded RAs at staff meetings to be on guard for potential offenders, and hoped that would be enough to assuage the problem. Residents being residents, the throwing of rotten fruit down the stairwells, stealing of exit signs, and the spilling of milkshakes in the lobby continued. The kind suggestions turned into harsh demands, but there was little I could do to stop students bent on damaging the building and creating additional cleaning duties for our staff. 

I wish I could say our relationship has been a friendly one. However, the reality of it is that the facilities staff members hate me for making them do their job. They call me "impossible to work with" and probably other foul names they will not repeat to my face. Why? Because I have asked them to fix my broken A/C unit or have requested they grease a squeaky hinge in the RA office or have refused to force my RAs to sit in the lobby on rotating shifts. If I am hated for doing my job, then so be it...I think I will be okay. 

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