The Blue & Gray Press

The University of Mary Washington Student Newspaper

Staff Ed: be kind to custodial workers on campus

2 min read

The Blue & Gray Press


Last semester, we received some backlash for an article we published about the James Farmer Multicultural Center. The problem, according to some, was a picture of the JFMC that included a black custodian vacuuming the center. 

Our consensus at the time was that while the composition of the photograph was confusing, there was nothing inherently offensive or demeaning about a picture of a man doing his job, so we left it. (Perhaps a conversation for a later date is why we would find the concept of people earning a wage in any capacity offensive). 

Although the gentleman in the photo wasn’t a part of the story we were then trying to tell, he is a part of the broader campus story. I bring this up because I think his story is emblematic of a phenomenon on campus where service workers, and maintenance workers in particular, are frequently invisible in the eyes of students. 

At a school whose student population is, according to College Factual, roughly 70 percent white and whose faculty is nearly 85 percent white and whose maintenance workers are predominantly people of color, it’s important to recognize the position we find ourselves in. We should be able to comfortably acknowledge the racial makeup of the campus, which extends to staff in all aspects of the university.

The takeaway here is to be respectful. This campus could not function without its maintenance staff, and our college experience is infinitely better because of them. Say ‘hello’ and ‘how are you.’ Don’t ignore custodial workers when they walk in the room. No one has been hired to be your maid – keep your space and public spaces tidy. Support workers’ rights on campus and off. Do your best to make staff members feel welcome and valued.

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