Facilities Operations: the men and women that keep Southern safe
Brokk Tollefson – Special to The Southern News
Southern Connecticut State University is a place where students spend time outdoors on campus when weather is nice. Students are constantly sitting outside talking with friends or reading their textbooks.
However, the campus seen today has not always been as attractive to students as it is now, said Jeremy Grier, senior.
“The school looks a lot better than when I came here in 2012. It has a lot more style, resources, and they do a really good job in cleaning up,” said Grier. “When I first came here, they didn’t have the ban on smoking so we’d see cigarettes all over the place. You don’t see that now.”
The men and women at facilities operations work every day to keep the campus clean and running as intended, said Robert Sheeley, associate vice president for capital budgeting and facilities operations. He added how he admires Southern students for their respect towards that work.
“The students have been very cooperative, nobody walks on the grass,” said Sheeley. “That says something about our students, that they respect our landscaping, and they want to keep it looking as good as possible, and they’re staying on the sidewalks.”
The facilities maintenance department consists of 14 different facets, from electrical and grounds, to plumbing and automotive. All of this takes many pairs of hands to keep the campus maintained and looking as nice as it does now, said Edward Pagan, a Facilities Operations worker of 26 years.
“For me, since I’ve been here for 26 years, I’m used to it. But for new-comers, it’s overwhelming,” said Pagan. “Summer is slower, but we spend more time now taking care of the appearance, picking up paper and cigarette butts, but it’s way better than it used to be.”
The Facilities department has always had a lot of responsibility; one thing most students may not know, however, is the amount of responsibility they have with how much ground they have to cover every day.
“We’ve gone from 1,200,000 square feet of space to 2,500,000 square feet of space. We’ve more than doubled our space on campus in the 26 years I’ve been here,” said Sheeley. “It’s greatly increased our responsibilities as far as taking care of buildings and everything else.”
Most students, faculty, and staff leave for the various breaks around the year, especially the three month summer break. But even during summer break, the facilities staff continues to work every day to improve the school.
“It’s really no different in the sense that we have to do the same things when no one’s around as when people are around,” said Sheeley.
The beginning of the school year gives a few more challenges to the facilities workers, added Sheeley.
“It becomes more difficult in the sense that you have to be more careful with the equipment and your driving, and cutting the grass, because people are around now,” said Sheeley. “Safety is our number one priority. We do not want to jeopardize anyone’s safety.”
Sheeley made sure to note this campus does not only belong to the staff and faculty, it belongs to the students just as much and thus its appearance is everyone’s concern.
“Students are taking more of a pride in the way the campus looks as well. And often students don’t get the credit for that,” said Sheeley. “If we didn’t take pride in keeping it clean, no one else would.”
Photo Credit: Brokk Tollefson – Special to The Southern News