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More than Teachers and Students

Hummingbird's picture

I woke up last Monday to an email saying classes were canceled due to snow and all non-essential staff were asked to stay home. So I was surprised to stroll into the bathroom and see my hall's housekeeper wiping down the sink countertop. I wasn't expecting anyone to be there, but particularly not any college staff. "Wait, don't you get the day off?" I asked. She explained that no – she and the rest of the housekeeping staff are considered essential and have to report into the college regardless of the weather conditions. She then expressed concern that the weather would make it difficult for her to pick up her daughter on time. I wished her luck, and left feeling shocked, helpless, and a little bit guilty. I was surprised the college would require housekeeping staff to report when faculty don't have to – especially because, as 18-22 year olds, I feel we should be pretty capable of restocking toilet paper or keeping our spaces clean, at the very least for a couple of days. I felt helpless because I didn't know what I could do to ease the situation, and wasn't sure what my responsibility was. And I felt guilty because she was forced to risk her own safety to come in to take care of our mess and our spaces.

Like faculty, many of our housekeeping staff are traveling significant distances to get here. In conditions deemed unsafe for faculty, why are housekeeping staff still asked to come in? In the case of full time dining hall staff, I know that some were housed in Windham during the storm last week. Was the same done for housekeeping? And what about for those with families or young children? When we're paying to be educated, why is the cleanliness of our living spaces prioritized through extreme weather conditions? This encounter made me question how the college values or fails to value different members of its community and reminded me that we are a larger community than simply students and professors.