While the University decreased custodial staff from 60 to 50, from 2012 to 2014, the campus’s size did not decrease at all. On the contrary, class sizes have increased: the class of 2018 was 757 students, and over the next four years the incoming class size steadily increased to 810 in the class of 2022. The class of 2023 will no doubt be even larger. This increase has created an immense burden on our custodians, who are now being forced to keep our campus clean with a smaller staff and more students creating trash.
In the recent “Campus Update” email sent by the University, they claim that the amount of students on campus has not increased since they contracted SMG to provide custodial workers, which is untrue. Unlike President Roth’s response last week they do address the student body’s concerns of extreme workloads but take no responsibility. They state “We are unaware of any such conversations or complaints being filed with SMG,” which is a dubious claim given that SMG (known back then as Sun Services) originally pledged to keep all 60 custodial positions but then went back on their word and cut them through attrition. SMG has not shown themselves to be an honest company – it doesn’t seem likely that they would publish workers’ complaints. This showcases the likely reason that the University contracts custodians instead of hiring them directly: they want to obscure bad publicity related to their poor treatment of workers by creating a barrier between those who directly hire and manage custodians and themselves.
We also stand in strong opposition to the University’s decision to call the Middletown Police on student demonstrators during WesFest despite the fact that their actions were well within the jurisdiction of the Community Standards Board – no laws were broken, no violence occurred or was incited, no one’s safety was under threat – law enforcement should not have been called. It is hypocritical of an administration whose President complained about “attacks on free speech” on college campuses only two years ago to then penalize and intimidate students for their open dialogue and peaceful activism.
That said, the administration’s poor handling of student protests shouldn’t distract from the main issue: the vital job that janitors do is rarely seen by students or administrators, but that cannot deprive them of their right to decent working conditions.
This is a reasonable request; Wesleyan’s United Student/Labor Activism Coalition and its supporters are asking the administration to hire at least five more workers – only half the amount of custodial positions removed in 2012-14 despite there being no significant change in campus size. The University can’t ignore this: the campus is talking, student government has passed a resolution, and now U.S. Congresspeople are tweeting in support. They’re all standing with us. The administration can choose to continue ignoring their student body and calling the police on peaceful protestors, or they can choose to showcase the values they claim to share with us in so many recruitment flyers by hiring five more workers.
The Executive Board of Wesleyan Democrats is composed of George Fuss ’21, Marguerite Humphrey ’21, Brittany Jiang ’21, Eli Roche ’21, Gabriel Siegel ’21, Maya Gomberg ’22, Katelin Penner ’22, and Divya Rajachandran ’22.