Your Source for Feminist Discourse

Let’s Do a Little Housekeeping Pt. 1

Disclaimer: I am not using this post to attack the JMU students, faculty, or administration, I am using two personal accounts from housekeepers who work at JMU to critique the way our society treats housekeepers and custodial staff as a whole. This post will be broken up into two parts, one focusing on possible solutions at the JMU level, and then focusing on other campuses across the nation. My evidence relies heavily on these personal stories, so if questions are raised about where do I get the facts from, I’m receiving them from these accounts. If you have any articles or statistics or other accounts that you would like to share in the comment section, to better my argument or to critique mine, please feel free!

A “stop-being-trashy” dart to all the slobs in Rose Library during finals week last semester for leaving their trash laying around

From a student who shouldn’t have to tell you that housekeepers are not your mother

This dart was in the Breeze in early January and this one resonated with me. This week I’ve had in depth conversations with two housekeepers about their experiences with JMU. At JMU the golden rule is to open doors for people, a sign of the respect we have for one another, but shouldn’t another expectation be to have higher regards for housekeepers and the rest of custodial staff. This may sound harsh and of course not all of us are rude to our housekeepers and custodial staff, but ask yourself this, “How many times do I say thank you to the people who clean up after me every day?”

The housekeeper who I spoke too, we will just call her Miss Awesome, for the time being. Miss Awesome, expresses that when she use to clean for the dorms that most of the students could care less about the impact their drunken weekends leave on the people who have to clean up the mess. Miss Awesome expresses that they would throw up in the mens’ toilets and the women would not flush after using the bathroom. Miss Awesome even states that she feels like JMU doesn’t care for her at all, because it would be easily accessible to find a replacement if she was ever to complain. Miss Awesome and another housekeeper are the only two who work this one morning shift in an academic building and only having two people to clean a big area is not right. Miss Awesome told me if she knew that she would be killing herself working so hard at JMU, she would have considered working somewhere else. I know this is only one of the two testaments, but I can’t help but to think that she isn’t the only one who feels this way. I love this school with my whole heart, but I believe that more appreciation needs to be given to these house keepers from not only students, but faculty and administration. Students I advice you to just be more considerate of the people around you and give more thanks. Miss Awesome told me that this one student was the only one who used Miss in front of her name as a sign of respect. Once this student started saying this, the other students copied him and Miss Awesome instantly felt more appreciated.

For administration I would seriously consider having someone investigate the working environment of these housekeepers. Maybe there needs to be more workers on certain areas, so these housekeepers aren’t hurting their bodies so much. Also current housekeepers should trust that their job will not always be in jeopardy for expressing their concerns. Also just more general appreciation, a housekeeper of the year gets a bonus. Have special dinners and lunches for housekeepers, that are paid for from the school and not coming out of their own pockets. Even if these things are implemented, do more, because I shouldn’t have a Housekeeper telling me she regrets her decision to work at JMU.

Links That Show Some of JMU’s Efforts

9 Responses to “Let’s Do a Little Housekeeping Pt. 1”

  1. cpowell92

    This is a great topic! I have always felt that JMU custodial staff does not get the credit they deserve. Back in the dorm room days, I am pretty sure some people thought they were living in a hotel. I even found myself picking up after people and dealing with vomit in the shower!!! I don’t understand where the disrespect comes from and it definitely needs to be followed up with some appreciation for the cleaning crew. I am glad you brought this to everyone’s attention and I think having lunches and custodial employee of the year awards are a great idea!!

    • bestlittlelion92

      Cpowell92 thanks for your comment. It is interesting to know that you are one of the students who has also witnessed some of the things that these workers have to go through. I also like how you brought up the aspect of being in a hotel, because I question whether that behavior would deem more acceptable to people who are staying in a hotel for a limited stay. You have inspired to write more about this in my part 2 post!

  2. Xenawarriorprincess

    I love this. I could not agree more with our suggestions and statements. My heart truly does go out to our custodial staff at JMU because they obviously do a great job at keeping our buildings and campus squeaky clean and work extremely hard. The ones I have interacted with in the past and present are always pleasant and love to chat, which I enjoy. I do know people, including myself, who make an effort to be more than respectful to them; however, we can always do more in our efforts and I will make it point to do so myself. Great post!

    • bestlittlelion92

      Thanks for your response. I definitely do believe there are students who make that extra effort such as yourself or the guy who I refer to in my post, but I like how you agree that more can always be done! I hope you will read my part 2 and let me know what you think!

  3. octopusice

    Thank you, SO MUCH for writing this article. When I lived in Shorts dorm at JMU last year, I was always so disgusted with the way our housekeepers were treated. Vomit in the bathrooms, used tampons and pads not disposed of properly, whole rolls of toilet paper thrown in the toilet…. The boys on the 4th floor peed out of their windows one night. There was always trash left scattered around the bathroom.
    I always liked to chat with the housekeeper on my floor, who was the absolute sweetest woman, and I could tell just how much she hated coming in to clean up the filth that the girls on my floor would leave after a weekend of partying too hard.

    And the worst thing about all this? One of the boys on the 4th floor submitted a post to JMU Crushes (which was published) about this housekeeper. This woman, who worked so hard, cleaned such disgusting messes, only to be talked about and DEGRADED by some anonymous misogynistic douchebag who has no respect for women. While the post is no longer on the facebook page (I messaged them and asked that it be removed) I’m putting what was said in the post here, because I think that people need to know just how shittily our housekeepers are treated.

    (trigger warning for graphic descriptions of sexual acts)

    “JMU Crushes (March 1, 2013): To the cleaning lady on the 4th floor of shorts. I want you to shove your broom handle up my ass while I pour Mr. Clean all over your firm breasts. In the the words of Tyga, “make it nasty” although you’re cleaning lady so i’m sure you’ll be able to wipe me down after i blow a godzilla sized load on your face.”

    Even if it is “just a joke,” things like this are disgusting, vile, degrading, and above all disrespectful to the people who clean our campus.

    • bestlittlelion92

      Thank you so much for sharing this with me! I also formed a bond with a housekeeper my Freshman year, we talked almost every day and I even gave her a present for Christmas. I really enjoyed getting to know this woman beyond her job and it opened my eyes to all the hard work that goes into cleaning this school. I also cannot believe this vile comment posted on JMU Crushes! I’m not really a fan of JMU crushes after some of stuff that I’ve seen being said about the woman on this campus, but this takes it another step further. A woman who works so tirelessly for these students is basically mentioned as just a sexual object, these things really make me reevaluate some of the students on this campus. You’re comments have also got me to think about sexual assault as it relates to house keeping, so maybe I will talk about this in a further post. Thanks again for your response and I’m glad you enjoyed my post.

  4. bauerjc

    Excellent post and I’m glad the connection has been made with how people treat housekeeping staff at hotels as well. Generally, these workers are among the lowest paid with very physically demanding work. It’s also a good reminder to tip your hotel housekeepers between $2-5 a day – it’s important to tip each day because the staff changes regularly.

  5. SarahStar77

    I am so glad you brought this up! I have talked with a lot of housekeepers in the past and they are underpaid and WAY overworked. People who work in dining halls get more respect and even some appreciation days. I do not think housekeepers get a JMU appreciation day. I really thought about making a petition once, but I didn’t know who I would to address this issue with. I also heard housekeepers in the dining halls who clean the bathrooms have to clean up not so nice things on a daily basis. Cleaning up vomit and other nasty things everyday in a bathroom should not be a norm for their job. I am so glad that you brought up how the libraries become absolutely beyond gross during finals week. Good job I look forward to part two. What do you think needs to be done about this issue?

  6. Sarah

    You make excellent points about how housekeepers should be paid, treated and rewarded. After all, it is important to have a clean environment or we would all get sick. These people are dedicated and deserve to be given better treatment.


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