The Daily Illini

Day in the life of building service workers

By Min Cheong Kim, Contributing Writer

Twenty four hours a day, seven days a week, Building Service Workers (BSW) unlock the buildings at the University in the morning, and they lock it back up at night. Their job is only noticed when something is not done.

The workers have standard duties of emptying the trash and cleaning restrooms, but they are also in charge of cleaning or replenishing chalkboards, soap dispensers and other everyday materials needed on campus. They work behind the scenes to keep the campus clean, though many don’t pay attention to this.

“You’re doing a good job if people don’t notice,” BSW Jack Humphreys said.

Raymond Hoang is a housing BSW. While he can get assigned to different buildings, he mostly works at ISR. The BSWs work as a team every single day, and shifts are spread out over the span of 24 hours. The shift from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. is generally preferred by workers, especially those with kids.

“These hours are perfect because I can take my children to school and pick them up later in the day,” Hoang said.

There are a range of other shifts available, too. A lot of the workers have to be on duty from 4 a.m. to noon or 11 p.m. to 7 a.m., when most of the students and staff are not in the building. These workers, however, get paid an extra 20 cents an hour.

The buildings where BSWs do work vary from housing to research buildings. Jack Humphreys’ main building is the Carl R. Woese Institute for Genomic Biology, but he moves around the campus depending on his work orders. His work setting can change anywhere from the Japan house to power plants.

“The power plant is the building I want to avoid,” Humphreys said. “It is 95 degrees and very loud in there. It’s not so much the people or the job, but it’s just an obnoxious building. And we have to go through a yearly training to even work in there one day.”

In special cases, the BSWs remove snow, perform emergency clean-ups such as flooding and move items such as furniture, lab equipment and books. They try their best to make life a little more comfortable for each individual on campus.

When it comes to the snow removal, BSWs wake up extra early to make the roads accessible for transportation to function. For a critical job like this, Humphreys tries to think of every possible situation.

“There are little things that run through my head,” Humphreys said. “The handicap entrances are accessible to people, but you have to go twice the distance to get to the building. When I scoop snow, that’s constantly going through my mind: ‘Make this wide enough, so they don’t have to worry about rolling in the snow.’”

In addition to housing and building workers, there are also swing workers. These are workers who can be placed in any position in housing.

Rachel Springer is a swing worker and said that the most difficult part of her job is just figuring out the technicalities of her job.

“(The most difficult part of my job is) learning the building, locating the equipment and just finding your way around that first time,” Springer said.

If there is anything that would make their job easier, it is patience from the students and staff, Humphreys said. They will take care of any requests needed, but usually, they have a set schedule for cleaning.

“They really do assume, ‘Oh, the cleaning fairy came in and cleaned everything last night’. But if something’s not dumped, man, do you hear about it.” Humphreys said.

“We do things on certain nights. If your trash is not dumped one night, wait at least two nights. It could be dumped the next night. It’s not just a bunch of lazy people, there is actually a protocol, which is often not noticed,” Humphreys said.

There is generally a lot of care for the people on campus from the BSWs. They have great pride in buildings and their job. They are here to give the students a comfortable place to call home. It is because they have a passion for their work and compassion for the people living in the buildings that the university is able to sparkle.

“The coolest accolade would be when I’m gone for a week and people say, ‘Don’t leave again.’ That’s enough said for me,” Humphreys said.

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