When we woke up to a campus littered with tree branches, tent poles and chairs strewn everywhere on a Saturday last month, some of us didn’t know what to think. But without batting an eye, the 7C grounds staff and other campus workers leapt into action, responding to what they could and making plans to safely and efficiently handle the rest.
The Claremont Colleges, no surprise, are routinely billed as some of the most beautiful campuses in the United States. And it’s true: the immaculately manicured quads, gardens and courtyards across the consortium are part of the privileges of living, learning and working here.
But what should also be evident is the immense amount of dedicated work that goes into maintaining such a stunning environment for the rest of us. A great campus and top-notch colleges aren’t just the result of good planning — it’s the people who work tirelessly day in and day out to keep them running. Their work never ceases, but it’s important that the rest of us take a moment to acknowledge just how vital they are.
The COVID-19 pandemic has asked more of our staff than ever before. You can see it in the numerous building modifications and stepped-up safety features that greeted us all when we returned in August. Those didn’t come out of nowhere. And we could see it clear as day when January’s wind storm knocked our campuses down and, without blinking an eye, staff began getting them going again within hours.
The workers who keep us nourished throughout the week deserve our profound gratitude this semester. On not much notice, they converted eateries around the colleges into seamless takeout operations, serving us with the same care and enthusiasm as ever. Staff shortages caused by skyrocketing case numbers and other constraints have been a challenge, but that hasn’t changed their standards. The fact that we’ve been able to enjoy healthy and delicious offerings throughout this return period is a testament to their dedication.
When college administrators tout the extensive measures they are taking to keep us safe this year, those measures are by and large the unending work that our facilities staff contributes to ensure our spaces stay clean and we stay healthy. From sanitized residence halls and dining areas to reorganized indoor and outdoor instructional spaces, they’ve had even more than usual on their plates — not to mention handling the increased amount of waste that the pandemic’s revised routines have produced.
We would be remiss not to mention the vital testing apparatus that Student Health Services and Hamilton Health Box have mounted this year. It takes time and effort to ensure the locations around the consortium are open and accessible, with results that come back in time for us to take action and keep each other safe. The medical workers who make this possible are here for us every week, and they’re making it possible for us to be back with each other.
This is all to say that, although our staff operate so professionally and efficiently that we don’t always notice how much they’re doing, they deserve to be recognized and commended for what they do. There would be no return to campus this year without their tireless efforts. When this consortium and its members shine, they’re the reason.
The least we can do is to make their jobs as easy as we can, with simple actions like being thoughtful about our impact on the spaces we inhabit and the items we use. But the 5C Student & Worker Alliance also facilitates requests for support from workers across the consortium, and pitching into their mutual aid fund is an important way to contribute to those efforts and show solidarity (more information is available on their Instagram account @_cswa).
All in all, we should be doing whatever is in our capacity to say thanks. As students or faculty, we can express our gratitude verbally, financially and through day-to-day interactions. For their part, administrators can ensure they reflect gratitude by seeing that staff receive suitable compensation, generous healthcare, reasonable working hours and support when they or family members get sick.
If we’re all one college community, as our leadership has been so happy to say recently, let’s ensure everyone is an equal part of the team.
And, on our part, to the workers who support us every day: Thank you, for all that you do.
TSL’s editorial board is comprised of its editor-in-chief and two managing editors, and does not necessarily represent the views of other TSL staff members.