Dorm Crew Adapts as House Renewal Increases Hall Baths

Harvard’s House renewal projects have so far largely replaced in-suite bathrooms with hallway bathrooms, which means that Dorm Crew—a student-run division of Facilities Maintenance Operations—will see a shift in where it cleans and what other jobs it takes on with the renovations.

Much of Dorm Crew's work consists of cleaning private student bathrooms. Laura K. Brennan ’16, co-head captain of Dorm Crew, estimates that Dorm Crew workers currently clean between 1,000 and 1,100 in-suite bathrooms in both the Yard dorms and the Houses.

Dorm Crew
Grant A. Sprow '16 cleans a mirror in freshman dorm Apley Court as part of routine Dorm Crew duties. Sprow has participated in Dorm Crew since his freshman fall.

Renewal projects so far have changed House bathroom configurations. Brennan said Dorm Crew is unlikely to take on the responsibility of cleaning hallway bathrooms even if their number on campus increases.

“Hall baths are less ‘Dorm Crew friendly,’” Brennan said, explaining that hallway bathrooms must be cleaned every day without exception—a requirement that would conflict with Dorm Crew’s goal to provide student jobs with flexible hours.

“It would be difficult [for us] to reach that hall bathroom standard,” she said.

Still, Brennan said the student-run division of FMO is unlikely to need to decrease its staff because of House renewal even if future projects continue to reduce the number of in-suite bathrooms.

Referencing Dorm Crew’s long history on campus and describing it as “adaptable,” Brennan said Dorm Crew has responsibilities beyond cleaning in-suite bathrooms, such as cleaning Yard buildings or helping with snow removal. In recent years, it has also begun to conduct weekly safety inspections in the Houses.

“There’s always work to be done,” Brennan said.

Jason W. Luke ’94, associate director of custodial and support services at FMO, said FMO has shifted some private bathroom cleaning responsibilities back to Dorm Drew as the number of hallway bathrooms in other Houses has increased with the renovations.

“There is a fair number of private bathrooms being done by FMO staff,” Luke said, adding that Dorm Crew has been unable to clean all the private restrooms for a long time due to its limited student workforce. According to Luke, Dorm Crew is currently working at capacity.

“We’ve shifted things back to Dorm Crew in certain situations.… The overall volume [of Dorm Crew’s work] is the same, really,” he said.

Brennan also said the previous House renewal projects—Leverett House’s McKinlock Hall and Quincy House’s Stone Hall—and the current work on Dunster House have had minimal effect on Dorm Crew’s work. A private contractor has long cleaned Quincy, and Leverett gave Dorm Crew a new contract to clean the Towers, replacing its contract for McKinlock Hall, she added.

Brennan said she did not know if either Dorm Crew or FMO staff would clean Dunster next year, as Dunster, before renovations, had employed a private contractor to clean its bathrooms. Dorm Crew is currently in charge of cleaning Dunster’s swing housing at the Inn and at Prescott Street.

Due to the cleaning standards for hallway bathrooms, Luke said he does expect House renewal to increase FMO’s work volume.

“Eventually, you’d have to expand, or more likely, increase people’s hours,” he said.

Luke noted, however, that any impact was unlikely to be felt in the near future.

“House renewal is a long, long process,” he said.

—Staff writer Quynh-Nhu Le can be reached at quynhnhu.le@thecrimson.com. Follow her on Twitter @qnhule.

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