Dirty Dorms: Room for improvement

Mary Devine

According to the Admissions Office, 75 percent of the class of 2020 live in the first-year residence halls, Johnson and Stauffer. 

Even though Johnson and Stauffer now enjoy new recreational equipment, desks, chairs, beds, and outdoor furniture as a result of Residential Life’s “Seven Year Plan,” students are still wondering if the environments in each residence hall are up to a common cleanliness and living standard. 

Since Whittier College’s transition from Sodexo Custodial Services to Flagship Facility Services, conflict has surrounded Flagship and their workers’ conditions.  Following the switch, concerns were raised about time-efficiency and the amount of work required of the small staff. 

During this time, employees and students brought attention to workers’ stories at several ASWC Senate meetings. These events led to a discussion between the ASWC President Amer Rashid and the Vice President of Finances Jim Dunkelman.

According to Dunkelman, the current employees’ cleaning expectations are based off of industry standards. 

One custodian is meant to clean three residence halls alone, only cleaning the bathrooms and common areas. Two workers are expected to efficiently clean each floor together, for a total of ten bathrooms in the first-year residence halls. Each bathroom is expected to be completed in a 15 to 20 minute period. 

Flagship said that the short amount of time custodians are required to spend cleaning the bathrooms is not of concern.   

“With what I see and observe with their industry standards around here, I don’t believe that is a sufficient amount of time,” said first-year Johnson resident Aaron James Vansant. “If that’s the quality that they are okay with, then fine, they are living up to their standards, but is that really the best they can provide for the residents?  It may be okay for the industry, but not for me, personally.”

Other students agree that the bathrooms may be up to industry standards, but not their own. 

“I feel like that amount of time is not good enough to clean a bathroom because to clean a bathroom at my house does not take 15 minutes, it takes longer,” said first-year Nicole Vigueria. “There are multiple bathrooms in the halls and multiple showers and toilets in the dorms. For me to take longer than 15 minutes in my own bathroom at home,  I think they deserve more time to clean our bathrooms at the dorms.” 

Some students think that, until change happens, those living in the first-year dorms should do their part and help out the custodial staff. 

“It’s pretty human to pick up after yourself,” said Vigueria. “If you spill something, don’t just leave it there and expect someone to clean it up. Pick it up because it is your mess. Would you expect that to happen in your own home? We are all adults and I feel like you should pick up after yourself because you are in a hall with different people. None of us, especially not the custodians, want to deal with the mess that you made.”  

“At other colleges, [RAs and the College itself] address these issues,” said Vansant, referring to a conversation he had with students at Cal Baptist University. “Even if cleanliness is not important to one individual, it is important to all of us, as far as health standards go. I feel like we have some really bad habits as far as the student body is concerned with cleanliness, but there isn’t a really good rigid cleaning system either, so that is a really bad combination.”

As for the Seven Year Plan, the long term plan is a little too slow for some residents. 

Although students enjoy the newly-added furniture for both indoor and outdoor spaces, students have complaints about more urgent issues that should be addressed faster than the plan allows. 

“[Whittier College] should be more inclined to give us comforts like working heating or air conditioning because these dorms are not in good condition compared to any modern building,” said Vansant. 

Vasant said that, while he felt that the residence halls’ living conditions were adequate, there could be much more improvement. 

 A recurring issue with the sewer system next to Johnson Resident Hall has some Jonhson residents concerned. “[Living in Johnson], we are right next to the sewage, so it smells every time they clean it out,” said first-year Nathan Lam. “But I don’t know how, when, or even if we can fix that.” 

“I know that there were attempts made to clean the sewage that was released into the gutters,” said Vansant.  “There were massive amounts of some sort of non-natural matter that was all over the gutter, and that leads to our oceans. I know they attempted to clean it up but there was still huge amounts of that matter littered on the ground and in the gutter. So, for me, to see my school littering right in front of our living spaces, that was a bummer. I wish that they would make some changes to our water line or whatever that issue is instead of making some sort of temporary fix, like it seems that they are consistently doing, as this issue keeps recurring. That would be more effective.”

According to Residential Life, if students express concerns directly to them, more projects will be developed to better the living conditions. 

However, students either haven’t done so or do not think that there will be reasonable action. “Well, what are they going to do, move the building?” Lam asked, making it clear that some students, although they have concerns and issues, have yet to speak up and voice for change. 

 “Residential Life strongly encourages students to report any cleanliness or overall residential concerns to their RA or Area Assistant Director,” said Associate Director of Residential Life Joe Melendez. “Facilities has been working hard to meet the standards of our students and we have been highly appreciative of the communication they have received. Together, we can work to create the community we are all proud of.” 

Students can email: residentiallife@whittier.edu with any concerns or feedback.