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Cleaning Up Dorm Crew

By Jasmine J. Mahmoud

In Greenough they do it. In Mather and Currier they do it. They are Harvard’s professional staff of janitors, but they don’t clean all the bathrooms on campus. Most of the rest are cleaned by students who work for Dorm Crew.

Unfortunately, bathrooms under Dorm Crew’s jurisdiction often go un-cleaned for weeks.

After a student cleaned my suite’s bathroom early in the semester, we expected him to return a week later. Yet, he did not return. Instead, week after week, we stared at the yellow “dorm crew was here” slip on our mirror hoping that someone from dorm crew would soon appear to rescue our bathroom from its ever-so-ungracious disintegration into pure filth. Finally, after over a month without service, one roommate called the dorm crew office, and the next day a student came to clean. His service restored our bathroom’s porcelain white sinks and clean floors.

But Dorm Crew should not be responding to student complaints after weeks of bathroom negligence. Students expect and need their bathrooms cleaned once a week for both consistency and hygiene. My Winthrop House handbook even indicates this expectation; it says, “private bathrooms are normally cleaned once a week by Dorm Crew. If your bathroom is not cleaned at this interval…please call Dorm Crew.” To ensure that students get their bathroom cleaned every week, the University should reduce Dorm Crew’s jurisdiction and increase the number of bathrooms cleaned by professional janitors. With this change, dorm crew could expect a smaller, more consistent work force.

It is unrealistic to expect Dorm Crew to clean the number of bathrooms that it proposes it can. That Dorm Crew does not have enough workers to cover these bathrooms is clear—it continually solicits new student employees through extensive advertisements, e-mails and job posts—at the Student Employment Office (SEO) for example.

And those who decide to work for Dorm Crew often don’t stay long. To many Dorm Crew workers, cleaning toilets becomes an unpleasant experience—when I worked Dorm Crew as a first-year, I came home from each shift smelling like the bathrooms I had just cleaned. I quit after only a short time because cleaning toilets was a too-unpleasant means of making money. Yet, Dorm Crew can also blame its high turnover rate on the nature of Harvard’s undergraduate work scene, which provides numerous opportunities to make money in more glamorous and more prestigious settings.

The SEO website, a hub for student employment searches, supplies students with a wealth of listings for a variety of part-time job opportunities. Though Dorm Crew touts their rate of $9.85 as providing one of the best-paying job on campus, many other undergraduate entry-level jobs pay higher wages. A student could tutor, bartend or work with a professor and earn more cash. As a research assistant, I make $10 an hour and get the invaluable experience of working with a scholar.

Were Harvard to reduce the number of bathrooms Dorm Crew workers clean, their choice would not be a statement on the quality of Dorm Crew’s work, which is often thorough and impressive—all Dorm Crew workers receive comprehensive training and many gain additional experience through Fall Clean-Up. Rather, a reduction would reflect common sense—it is unreasonable to expect a high number of student workers to remain with Dorm Crew in Harvard’s opportunity-rich job market.

With a smaller, conceivably more committed staff and a smaller jurisdiction of bathrooms to clean, Dorm Crew could fulfill the promise of a bathroom cleaned every week. And they should. No students should have to suffer through the insanity of insanitation.

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