Custodians weigh in on life, bio-cleanups

It was Monday morning on the Dodd Quad, and the Williams custodial staff was out in full force. Though arguably the group most affected by the recent wave of bio-cleanups, custodians have remained largely behind the scenes throughout the controversy – disrespected, yet mostly silent. Three custodians on a break in Hubbell offered their thoughts.

Since it was the first day in a school week, one might have expected custodian Jean Walden to be mopping up the biohazardous remnants of the weekend. Not so. “We’re lucky,” Walden said, “since on the weekends, the custodian on call has to come in and deal with the messes.”

Given the steep rise in feces-related incidents, the policy for how custodians respond to biohazards has changed this year. Whereas custodians routinely cleaned up vomit and urine in past years, the new procedure dictates that custodians must first report the incident (whether vomit, urine or feces related) to their superiors, where the information is then relayed to the administration. Custodians then use a specially designed emergency cleanup kit to remove the mess.

Walden believes that this new policy has largely contributed to the increased awareness on campus of the issue. In her 24 years at the College, including the past 14 as a custodian, Walden has never seen anything like this. “If it were just one incident, I would forget about it. But six already in October? That’s ridiculous,” Walden said, referring to the bio-cleanups specifically involving feces. “This is the first year I’ve heard of poop.”

The cleanup process is significantly more involved when carpets or furniture have been soiled. “The worst is carpet,” said Saroeuth Chhuon, custodian. “You have to get really close to it and dig in there. It’s disgusting.” Chhuon has been at his current job for just over a year, having previously worked in Dining Services at the College for nearly a decade.

Custodians agreed that urinating in trash receptacles and vomiting do not mark a new trend, chalking them up to laziness or drunkenness. Consequently, they seemed to give the students as a whole the benefit of the doubt. “They’re just young and like to drink and go out partying all night. Sometimes they lose control,” said Souphaphonh Phienboupha, custodian. “I don’t think they do this on purpose.”

The custodians did not hold the same forgiving attitude for the students, or individual student, spreading the feces. “I hope you catch him,” Walden said. “You should send out undercover spies to parties to look for suspicious people.” The custodians also did not buy into any of the conspiracy theories, insisting that the messes have been made by the residents themselves. “I don’t think a drunk stranger would come up to the third floor of Hubbell to smear their poop,” said Walden.

As for what to do with the perpetrator, all of the custodial staff agreed on a punishment: make him go on-call with the custodians and do some bio-cleanups of his own. “Then they’ll see how degrading and disgusting it is,” Walden said.

Chhuon implored the culprit to come forward, or at least think about the consequences of his or her actions. “Before you smear your poop next time, think about us who have to clean it up,” he said.

Still, the custodians are hesitant to blame the current debacle on College students in general. “It’s just a few kids making the whole school look bad. I don’t look at every kid like he has smeared poop all over a bathroom – my views aren’t going to change because of [several] people out of 2000,” Walden said.