Tales from the Campus Cleaners

Douglas Miller

Each of Custodial Services’ staff members clean 25,000 square feet every day, which is equivalent to cleaning 14 average-size homes.

Heather Stawicki | Daily Kent Stater

Credit: Ron Soltys

Copies of the Stater, coffee cups and pop cans are just a few things that cover the classrooms floors of Kent State’s academic buildings.

Custodial crew leader Holly Persuhn said she has spent the last seven years picking up what students leave behind.

“I do appreciate the students because they give me a job,” Persuhn said. “It just seems like the students deliberately make a mess sometimes.”

She said she has seen everything from an entire notebook full of paper ripped out and thrown on the floor, to coffee and pop sprayed on the walls in Bowman Hall.

Her staff spends two hours a day just picking up loose trash in the classrooms, which prevents them from getting the building as clean as she would like to see it, she said.

Kent State Custodial Services currently has 18 students and 85 full-time custodial workers, Manager John Walsh said.

“My staff cleans 48 academic buildings a day,” Walsh said. “We could always use more people.”

Walsh said each of his staff members clean 25,000 square feet everyday, which is equivalent to cleaning 14 average-size homes. He said the bathrooms are 100 percent disinfected first, and then his staff cleans the classrooms, entry ways and finally the offices if they have enough time.

Persuhn said her co-worker, Darrell Dukes, spends an hour just cleaning Bowman’s second floor women’s bathroom, which has 15 stalls. There used to be three people cleaning Bowman, but one was moved to another building because Campus Environment and Operations is so understaffed.

“I try to do one thing at a time,” Persuhn said. “It is hard not to get sidetracked and clean things as I see them.”

She said the hardest part of her day is the detailed cleaning work in Bowman’s 200 third-floor offices.

“Every office has its own computer and phone that I wipe off every night,” Persuhn said. “If there is any wet trash in the garbage I have to replace the bag.”

Custodial supervisor Claudia Gibson said the tiered lecture halls are the hardest for her staff to clean because the chairs do not move.

“Everything in the tiered classrooms has to be picked up by hand which makes the cleaning very difficult and time consuming,” Gibson said. “That is time that could be spent elsewhere.”

The custodial staff said the biggest complaint they have is about loose copies of the Stater. Greg Evans, night-shift custodial supervisor, said whoever throws away the previous day’s issues puts them all in the bottoms of the recycling bins. He said that adds a lot of unseen weight to the bag and has caused some of his staff to hurt their backs.

“I would like to see the leftover papers thrown in the large recycling bin located by the building’s loading docks,” Evans said. “I get more complaints from people emptying recycling bins than people picking them up by hand.”

Persuhn said that there are at least ten copies of the Stater in each row of the lecture halls. She said she is lucky if there is not coffee or pop spilled on them because then she has to scrape them off the floor. She said she does not understand why students cannot drop the papers in the recycling bin on the way out.

“I don’t have time to sort through the trash that I pick up,” Persuhn said. “I end up throwing away many things that should be recycled.”

Persuhn said she also would like to see the professors do something about the mess students are making. She thinks that if professors mentioned cleaning up as class is dismissed, it would make a big difference.

“The professors could say something about it,” Persuhn said. “There is no way they don’t see it.”

Persuhn said her job is not all that bad though. She said she cannot even imagine cleaning larger buildings like the Music and Speech Center. She said there is a total of 12 bathrooms in that building, which would take her more than four hours to clean.

She said cleaning up after messy students provides her with a job and a way to send her children through college. She said if it was not for the tuition she would be long gone.

“I’m here to put my children through college,” she said. “My oldest is only three so I will be here for a long time.”

Contact building and grounds reporter Douglas Miller at [email protected].