Budget Crisis Causing a Real Funk in the Bathrooms

The college’s custodians have been subjected to much criticism by students for the deteriorating condition of campus restrooms, but recent staff cuts have left only one custodian for every thousand students on campus.

However, Vice President of Administrative Services Larry Serot said that students are to blame for much of the mess.

“The biggest problem with the cleanliness is nobody bothers to clean up after themselves,” said Serot. “It doesn’t take a lot to put your hand towels into the trash cans, nor does it take a lot of effort to flush the toilet.”

The college’s custodial staff is eight members short this semester due to layoffs and retirements at the end of the 2002-2003 fiscal year, according to Director of Facilities Lew Lewis.

Lewis said that despite the reduced staffing, custodians have made cleaning campus restrooms a priority. All restrooms, the cafeteria, the Los Robles Building, and the Child Development Center have become the focus of custodians and are maintained daily.

However, many custodial services have been cut. According to Lewis, the college’s trash is now emptied every other day, carpeted areas are vacuumed once a week, and chalkboards and whiteboards are cleaned only once or twice a month.

“The cuts in custodial staff have caused a buildup of unpleasant conditions in the classrooms,” said Vice President of Instructional Services Steve White. “Since we eliminated (instructional) jobs, we felt we had to make reductions across the board to be fair.”
The recent layoffs have tremendously increased the workload of the remaining custodians.

According to Manager of Maintenance and Operations Dan Padilla, by industry standards, the average square footage of coverage per custodian is 17,000 square feet. The college’s custodians now cover 28,000 square feet. However, Padilla said that there are always staff members out sick or on vacation, which leaves those on duty larger areas to maintain.

“You also have to take into account that the college has 16,000 students and only 16 custodians,” said Lewis.

The extra workload of custodians has been exacerbated by widespread graffiti and even human feces and urine on the walls and floors of restrooms and gym showers. Padilla said that custodians have also found feces and urine in elevators.

Another problem, according to Padilla, is that students have been throwing paper towels in toilets and causing them to clog. Padilla said that students should be aware of these issues and that causing such problems will only make it more difficult for custodians to maintain clean and sanitary restrooms. “It’s a burden on the college, and it’s a burden on my workers,” said Padilla.

Padilla said that he and his staff are frustrated by how people on campus are using facilities. According to Padilla, the walls in the new Science Center Complex already have markings and footprints from people resting their feet against them.

Meanwhile, all vacant positions, including those left open by recent retirements, will not be filled anytime soon.

“We’re looking at January to see what lies ahead and to see…what will be given to community colleges,” said Lewis. “We’re in it for the long haul.” Lewis believes it may take up to two years to fill the positions.

“I’d love to put the custodians back, but I have to weigh the demand…for faculty and… student services,” said Serot. “We’ve cut back on tutoring programs, library hours and on a lot of things that directly benefit the students, so it’s hard to argue for [more] custodians when direct student services are being cut.”

Padilla said that his custodial staff works hard to maintain the campus, but that current conditions are causing them to be overworked. “I feel for the custodians because I know that they are getting tired,” said Padilla. “Hopefully things will change very soon.”
Padilla and Lewis are planning to attend weekly Associated Students and staff meetings to address the issue.