A look behind the scenes: Korb Hall custodians tell all

Jinae West

Debbie Loughney pushed down the handle to a vacant bathroom on the fourth floor of Korb Hall and slowly opened the door.

A few wadded paper towels littered the tile floor. Loughney pointed to a dark yellow stain near the toilet and shook her head.

“This is the bathroom I was telling you about,” she said.

Loughney is a residence hall custodian at Korb Hall. She works 40 hours a week, Sunday through Thursday. In that time, she and another custodian, Karol Spano, clean 46 bathrooms, in addition to lounges, offices, stairwells and laundry rooms in the building. Some days, Loughney is the only custodian on staff at Korb, but those duties still need to be taken care of.

“On Sundays, I clean all of the offices downstairs and service the building. When I say ‘service,’ I mean I go to each and every bathroom and check for toilet paper, paper towels, soap. You look for messes and take the trash out,” she said. “There is a laundry room and lounge on each floor, so you clean those, like the microwaves need to be cleaned and any food in the sink.”

The average hourly rate for a custodian at Kent Roosevelt High School is $11.52. At the University of Akron, that rate jumps to $12.45 for a building services worker. The entry wage at Kent State for a custodian is $9.94.

Loughney, who has worked at Kent State for two years, said it takes three to four hours to clean Korb, top to bottom.

“I start on the first or sixth floor, depending on how bored I am,” she said. “I like to vary the routine because some floors take more time than others. Like, there’s this bathroom on the fourth floor that’s always a mess .”

She said she knows the student who keeps trashing the bathroom.

“But what are you going to do about it?” she asked, giving a small shrug.

For the most part, Loughney said, students are grateful for what she does and the effort that goes into keeping the building clean.

“It’s collaborative,” she said. “You’re kind of working together with them. If you do the best you can do, your students will notice that and respect it.”

She walked through the mostly deserted halls in Korb, dragging her barrel of supplies behind her: a feather duster, Lysol, insect killer, tools, a magic eraser, door wedges, rolls of paper towels and trash bags. She worked quickly cleaning the bathrooms and lounges like someone who’s done this a thousand times and knows the most efficient way to do it, almost as if she were on autopilot.

As she wiped down one of the sinks, Loughney described the satisfaction she gets from seeing a clean bathroom and the occasional nods of appreciation she sees from students. One asked her how she made everything so shiny.

“That made me feel good,” Loughney said. “I pride myself on shiny showers.”

As expected in her line of work, not everything starts off as shiny. Loughney has her fair share of horror stories, including when she had to clean up two bathrooms full of vomit Homecoming weekend.

“Homecoming and Halloween weekends are fun,” she said dryly.

She said Spano once had to clean up after a student who threw up in front of the associate director of Residence Services’ office, an inconvenient place to show off what he had eaten for breakfast. Spano had just started work as a custodian.

But for all of the messes Loughney has had to deal with, she said she truly loves her job.

She shared another story when a student splattered a chocolate drink all over the bathroom, neglecting to clean it up and letting it dry onto the floor and walls. While Loughney scrubbed the caked-on substance, a student walked past and said she was sorry Loughney had to clean that up.

She didn’t do it, Loughney said, but it was nice to hear she cared.

“The appreciation was there, and that’s all that anybody wants.”

Contact buildings and grounds reporter Jinae West at [email protected].