Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Service workers at UMass should be treated better

UMass staff deserve dignity and respect

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(Caroline O'Connor/ Daily Collegian)

(Caroline O'Connor/ Daily Collegian)

(Caroline O'Connor/ Daily Collegian)

By Emma Garber, Collegian Columnist

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It was like any other Saturday night in Franklin Dining Commons: The place was packed with the usual crowd of students filling their stomachs with sushi and stir-fry, the room abuzz with chatter about approaching exams and weekend plans. A sudden crash rang out when a group of men accidentally dropped their plates as they began to finish up their meal. The room erupted in the usual sarcastic applause, and the men hung their heads in shame. “I’m leaving,” one of them said, and they all briskly walked away, abandoning the scene of the crime. Left on the table were the remnants of their meal: broken glass, spilled pasta sauce, bits of food and forgotten dishware. Within a matter of seconds, a Frank employee arrived, ready to clean up the filth the men left behind. My friends and I looked away, too embarrassed on behalf of our fellow students’ lack of respect to watch as the employee swept the mess away. Although there are rules in the dining halls against students cleaning up broken dishes, the students’ display of entitlement – this mindset that someone else would obviously come to clean up their mess – was nevertheless disappointing. Even more disappointing is the realization that this entitlement is not unique to this one group of men.

Across campus, there seems to be a general lack of respect, as if we have all forgotten just how privileged we are. Our attitude toward service workers is embarrassing, especially for a campus that is supposedly welcoming to all. We shove our student ID cards at the workers checking us into the dining hall or dorm without a greeting or a “thank you.” When a dining hall employee is ready to serve us food, we silently point at what we want, not acknowledging their help. The same goes for maintenance staff in dorms. The other day as I was returning to my dorm room, the woman who cleans the hall was mopping the floor. A group of women trekked through her mopping, never once acknowledging her presence. Bathrooms are often left in chaos, with toilet paper on the floor and water spilled everywhere. On the bus, we rarely say thanks or greet our bus drivers. At any place on campus, the staff working there is probably not getting the respect they deserve.

Hanging all over campus are the words “dignity and respect.” As a part of the University of Massachusetts’ new “Building a Community of Dignity and Respect” campaign, the administration has reaffirmed its efforts to ensure “a safe and welcoming living-learning-working environment for every member of our community,” and to create “an environment that is respectful and inclusive for all.” Dignity and respect are not complicated concepts to understand. As students, we are quick to defend each other. When acts of hate occur or the price of tuition increases, we stand up for each other, as we should. Yet when it is time to defend those who are working some of the most demanding, tireless jobs on campus, we fail to do so.

We need to remember that staff members across campus are also vital members of our community. Many of them are students who balance classwork and exams in addition to their work duties. For some employees, English is not their primary language. Many work long shifts every day, some maintenance staff waking up at the crack of dawn to begin cleaning. Regardless of their age, race or gender, employees across campus are all entitled to dignity and respect. They work all day to make our college experience better, why can’t we work to make their days a little better?

This is not to say that every single student is rude to our service workers. I see plenty of people saying “please” and “thank you.” However, as a community we can all try to be more mindful of our manners. Thank your bus driver when you get off the shuttle. Ask the security guard in your dorm lobby how their night is going. Clean up after yourself in the dining halls. Take the time to let workers across campus know they are valued.

Emma Garber is a Collegian columnist and can be reached at [email protected]

1 Comment

One Response to “Service workers at UMass should be treated better”

  1. Amy on October 16th, 2018 9:55 pm

    I wonder how much of our money Umass has wasted on this ‘respect and dignity’ campaign and what gives them the right to waste our tuition money on what is basically a indoctrination ‘campaign’? It’s different than say marketing campaign which actually benefits students presently and in the future; because it can help attract higher caliber students and increase the reputation of the college.

    A campaign that looks like it could be catered to pre-school children or elementary children serves no purpose and is a waste of money. It also asserts things in an unquestionable dogmatic way as if they are right. It should really state “these are the values, ideas, principals of the umass adminstration.’ Not act as if we should just blindly accept them.

    Umass employees need to focus on treating us the students better.. doing things like fixing elevators, like protecting students from racism, like not using the police as a tool of harassment to harass employees who serve our needs(like the black disability services employee) , like hiring less employees overall to reduce our tuition and fees, like holding bad professors accountable.

    Whoever wrote this article, should be critical and turn their eye on umass and how their employees from the bottom to the top, to the janitor to the secretary to the professor to the dean to the chancellor is serving us and spending the huge sums of money that we give them well.

    Ultimately we the students have the power and over the employees on the campus and if you wanted to be treated better, spend less tuition, and make sure the money you give umass is well-spent, you should start using it.

    Also stayed tuned to my upcoming student bill of rights… One of the rights will give the public and students the right to form a board that can review and terminate faculty including professors.

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