Ephs get down and dirty while tackling grimy jobs on campus

Lauren Shuffleton '12 struggles with containers of leftovers for WRAPS.
Lauren Shuffleton ’12 struggles with containers of leftovers for WRAPS.

Many jobs on campus, like swiping ID cards in the dining halls, sorting files in the college archives or manning the front desk in the library, seem pretty tame and perhaps even a bit menial. As Candace Marlow, assistant director of financial aid, puts it: “Most jobs on campus are just basic office jobs.” But what about those jobs that aren’t part of the majority, that aren’t quite so clean and safe? Whether it’s mucking around Hopkins Forest or getting slimed by teriyaki sauce, there are actually quite a few campus jobs that involve getting down and dirty – after all, somebody’s got to do it.

According to Ugochuku Nwachuku ’13, the dishwashing scene in Mission Park is a disaster zone. The crux of the messy problem lies in the conveyor-belt system, which forces the workers to load dishes at a frantic pace and spatter themselves in food. “The plates and cups come so fast on the conveyor belt that there’s barely time to stack them into the dishwasher,” Nwachukwu said. Rather than dressing up, Nwachukwu dresses down and wears clothes he’s going to wash anyway because he gets so dirty. “I get food all over [myself]. The messiest I’ve ever been is pasta all over my apron and stuff all over my hands. It’s really gross,” he said.

One volunteer job on campus that can get similarly messy is transporting food for WRAPS, a food service organization that delivers leftover dining hall food to local homes. Lauren Shuffleton ’12, a WRAPS volunteer, became especially dirty one night when she had to carry the “huge awkward hulking pink containers of food” by herself. “When I tilted the container to get it into the car, all the teriyaki sauce spilled all over me,” she said. “My shoes are still a different color because of it.” Another time, she dropped a huge tray of potatoes in the middle of Route 2 and saw them mash as cars drove over them.

These jobs show that students who handle food can end up covered in it, but some outdoor jobs show what the words filthy and disgusting actually mean. Will Harron ’11, who works as a biology research assistant counting amphibians in two vernal pools in Hopkins Forrest, is confident in the griminess of his job. While he goes out twice a week to move amphibians out of traps with his hands, he gets the dirtiest during spring time, which is amphibian breeding season. “The amphibians all come out on the first wet night of spring,” Harron said. “All the frogs; all the salamanders. By the time we get to the traps, they’re completely full with salamanders and frogs squirming and dropping their sperm packages and eggs into this gooey pile of amphibian mating orgy.”

And Harron really uses some elbow grease. “I have to put my hands in there and separate the frogs because the male frog hooks his arm around the female frog when he mates,” he said. “I mean it’s a lot of fun. I have to wash myself really well after that.”

The campus job of Stefan Ward-Wheten ’11, a Hopkins Forrest caretaker, undoubtedly takes the cake as the dirtiest campus job. In Ward-Wheten’s words, he’s the “Hopkins Forrest handyman.” Ward-Wheten’s messy experiences include removing dead birds and rats from the forest, immersing himself in streams to help with the geosciences department’s experiments with water flow, digging in the garden, cleaning muck from trail drainage systems, mowing brush and repairing greasy machines – it’s all in a day’s work for Ward-Wheten. “You should see my outfits,” he said. “I just got rid of lots of old clothes I was using because they were totally threadbare.”

While Harron’s hands may get dirty moving frisky amphibians, Ward-Wheten often has to immerse his entire body in the vernal pools to repair the fences around the pools and implant traps into the ground. “I have to actually put on thigh-high boots and neoprene gloves and get into the water,” Ward-Wheaton said. “The water is pretty nasty, the mud never goes away. Try as I might, I never can stop the water from going in the boots or in the gloves. Then I kind of have to empty them. I think this is the messiest I get. There’s a pretty thorough cleaning process we take ourselves through back up at the [Hopkins Forest] Center.”

Two other instances stick out in Ward-Wheten’s mind – building bridges and surveying trails. To build bridges, Ward-Wheten had to fell trees himself. “We had to drag the logs across this really muddy stretch of path that doesn’t have good drainage,” he said. “So dealing with these muddy, several ton, 30 foot long logs was pretty much like wrestling an alligator.” Surveying the trails involved marking the trees in a certain order with yellow, red and orange cans of oil-based paint. It sounds pretty straight-forward, but not so: “I managed to spill the paint down my entire side, and then I fell with my other side where the paint was spilled on the ground,” Ward-Wheten said. “I walked around that day wearing yellow. I also had to clean up the paint from the ground.” Nevertheless, he loves what he does. “I really just like getting out there, getting dirty, and taking a break from being inside all the time,” he said. “I highly recommend this as a job.”

Whether these Williams students hate or love their jobs, one thing is clear: Dirty jobs certainly abound on campus. If you’re the daring type, next time you apply for a job at the College, go ahead and shake up your daily routine by getting a little – or quite – messy.