Campus custodians use winter break to their advantage

All Faiths Chapel sits empty during cleaning. Custodian John Lehmer primarily works in All Faiths Chapel, Danforth Hall and Thompson Hall. (John Chapple | Collegian Media Group)

During winter break, when students travel near and far to spend quality time and recharge, campus is seemingly lifeless. Despite the drastic contrast in activity seen about campus, a team of custodial specialists remain hard at work to prepare for students to return.

John Lehmer, custodial specialist for the Danforth Chapel, All Faiths Chapel and Thompson Hall, said winter break is used for a lot of deep cleaning. Classroom floors are mopped, and carpets are cleaned. Tile flooring, as well as All Faiths’ stage, is buffed. Bathrooms are sanitized, and surfaces are dusted.

“When the kids are not here, it’s easier just to deep clean the whole place,” Lehmer said. “We go from one end to the other, and work our way in.”

The custodial job also has its intricacies. If an event is going on during Lehmer’s usual vacuuming time, for instance, then he has to plan ahead and reschedule that specific job. Lehmer said that aspect is probably what’s hardest about his job.

“Every day’s different, so it’s not a humdrum job,” he said. “I mean … the students decide what we do everyday by the activities you’re doing. … I have to plan around what you guys are doing.”

Another important aspect of the job is ordering supplies.

“If I run out of things to clean [with] I get in trouble,” Lehmer said.

The best thing about Lehmer’s job is the people, he said. Lehmer has developed friendships with professors and relationships with students. He said most students are very respectful of his work and even come around to say “thank you.”

Elizabeth Dongoski, one of the custodial specialists for Putnam Hall, agreed with Lehmer on this aspect; she said she enjoys getting to know students.

Dongoski said it is nice to know that her work makes for “one less thing [students] have to think about and worry about.”

Dongoski’s winter break routine consists of deep cleaning all the rooms and bathrooms in the residence hall, taking out all trash, mopping, vacuuming and cleaning the flooring. Any big projects, like painting the walls or replacing light fixtures, typically get completed during this time, either by maintenance or custodial staff.

“It’s nice to know that I’m making it a little less hard for you guys to be in college,” Dongoski said.