In its efforts to decrease spending, the University is considering a potential cut that, if approved, would reduce the amount of cleaning provided for smaller program houses. Currently, a custodial staff cleans the University’s program houses Monday through Friday. Under the new proposal, smaller houses would receive cleaning every other weekday, alternating between two or three days of cleaning per week.

In an e-mail to The Argus, Associate Director of Facilities Management Jeff Miller said that the proposed cut would result in a projected cost savings of approximately $36,000 per year. These funds, he added, could be subsequently directed toward other residential needs.

The proposal originated in Physical Plant last spring and was also evaluated by Residential Life (ResLife).

In November, Physical Plant brought the proposal to the Undergraduate Residential Life Committee (URLC), a sub-committee of the Student Life Committee, for student input and discussion.  The URLC, co-chaired by Becky Weiss ’10 and Director of ResLife Fran Koerting, focuses on issues concerning residential life and its impact on students. 

“[Physical Plant] tries very hard to bring all major changes in Residence Hall services before the URLC,” Miller wrote. “It is an excellent forum to share ideas with students and to get student input.”

According to Weiss, once the proposal came to the URLC for discussion, a variety of ways to make the cut were considered. The URLC focused on the impact the cut would have on students.                                            

Vickie Cheng ’10, a URLC member, surveyed residents from a number of program houses that would be affected by the cut. According to Cheng, the majority of these students felt that cleaning every other day would be sufficient.

“They were mostly happy with the idea of cutting cleaning to two to three days a week,” Cheng said. “[The input] was really positive.”

Designating between larger and smaller program houses, however, became another issue, as larger houses would continue to be cleaned Monday through Friday. In the original proposal, Miller indicated that smaller houses would include any house with fewer than 20 beds. This number, however, has been reconsidered by the URLC.

“If a cut was made, it hasn’t yet been decided what the cutoff level would be for five days of cleaning,” Weiss wrote in an e-mail to The Argus. “An example—houses with 12 or more beds might still be cleaned five days or it might only be houses with 18 or more beds.”

If the cut were made immediately, it would mean the loss of a custodial staff position. Physical Plant, ResLife, the URLC and a number of students in program houses oppose this consequence. 

“The committee asked if the cut could be done through attrition, as opposed to someone losing their job directly,” Koerting said. “This fits into the University’s general approach to economic concerns.”

Miller indicated that Physical Plant would not put the proposal into effect if it would result in the direct removal of a custodial staff position.

“We would not implement this plan until we have a voluntary position opening on the day shift staff that would allow for this savings in wages,” Miller wrote.

Koerting said that in years past all program houses, regardless of size, were cleaned only two to three days a week. The 2008-2009 academic year marked the first time these houses received cleaning five days a week.

“The concern isn’t that three days a week is insufficient,” she said. “We know that it works.”

Sam Schilit ’10, house manager of the Bayit, indicated that two to three days of cleaning has sufficed in years past. Schilit has lived in the Bayit, a 22-bed program house focusing on Jewish culture, for the past two years and witnessed the change from alternate weekday cleaning to the now-standard five days.

“It really doesn’t make that much of a difference,” Schilit said. “Five days a weeks is unnecessary, especially in the smaller houses. If you’re living in a house, you should be responsible for cleaning up after yourself.”

Due to its size, however, the Bayit would not be affected if the cut were approved.

Residents of other program houses, however, envision problems resulting from the decrease in cleaning days. 

Lily Mandlin ’10, a member of Community Service House, said that cleaning is frequently a point of contention. 

“We feel bad about what we leave,” Mandlin said. “But when our custodial staff person isn’t around, there’s filth. Many program houses are old—and older houses are harder to clean.”

The Community Service House, which focuses on community service and social justice activities, has 10 beds and would therefore be affected if the cut passes.  According to Mandlin, if the cut was approved, the University would need to help students balance the decrease in cleaning days.

“I don’t like the cut either way,” Mandlin said. “But it would have to be met by some sort of stipend or provided cleaning supplies. We still—as a house—spend a huge amount of money for cleaning supplies with a five-day custodial staff.”

In contrast, Miller reasoned that students might enjoy the responsibility of more cleaning.

“Students might take more pride in their house if they were in a position to help maintain the condition,” Miller wrote.

The proposal will not be discussed again in the URLC until after mid-semester recess. If approved, the cut will not go into effect until the 2009-2010 academic year, at the earliest.

“This is not a final decision by any means,” Weiss wrote.

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