Custodial hiring freeze continues

Jacob Waring –  Contributor

Due to a two-year hiring freeze, facilities operations and custodial duties have been affected.
“We had one all last year and we will have one all of this year,” said Mark Rozewski, vice president of finances and administration. “And what that means is that when positions become vacant because people have retired or took another job or left for some other reason.”

The Associate Vice President for Capital Budgeting & Facilities Robert Sheeley has admitted that his, and all departments had to adjust to this reality.

“I think what we all had to do is adjust,” said Sheeley.” If you don’t have all the resources that you previously have, you have to look at how you deploy the resources that you’re left with.”
Sean Gamble, a senior, said he has noticed a difference in the restrooms over the years.

“When I first arrived here the bathrooms were a lot cleaner than they are now. It does reflect that they’re definitely understaffed,” Gamble said. “A lot of times, the restrooms in the main academic quad are independently kind of filthy, there are some you know you can go to that are not so bad.”

Sheeley said Facilities Operations had to prioritizes the responsibilities of the custodians with safety, and good health in mind. Bathrooms are the department’s number one priority as they are a health issue, so they must be cleaned.

Yet, depending on which part of the campus the restrooms reside, that can be easier said than done.

“Engleman Hall has 26 bathrooms,” said Sheeley. We can go in 8 o’clock in the morning and clean a bathroom. By noon time, that bathroom looks like we were never there,” Sheeley said. He emphasized the fact that ten thousand plus students, and one thousand employees travel through the halls of the campus. Different buildings have different needs as the Academic Science and Laboratory Building will have a different cleaning procedure than Engleman Hall. This is due to dealing with different scientific wastes and chemicals while the other is just classrooms and offices.
Some students have not shared Gamble’s sentiments in regards to the bathrooms.

Antuantt Azolas, a senior who majors in biology is one of them.
“I’m a commuter. So, I don’t spend a lot of time in here. But when I’ve been in to the bathroom, I don’t think they’ve been that bad,” Azolas said. She also noted that the bathrooms have never appear to her to be dirty or nasty.

Facilities typically hear more complaints from faculty than students. “There’s a reason for that, you’re a student, you come to the classroom, you use the bathroom then you leave. Or you move onto another building,” Sheeley said.

Every department is feeling the pain from the resulting hiring freeze. The freeze will continue to the rest of the fiscal year, and likely onto the next year too. “The condition of the state isn’t getting any better. The state ability to support Southern isn’t getting any better,” Rozewski said.

No one is being hired during this period as according to Rozewski. Custodial jobs, and other staff positions are not subjected to layoff due to union contracts stipulating against such actions. The union agreements last until 2021, or 2022, and the expiration of these agreements would be problematic if the hiring freeze is still in affect at that time.

“Who knows what the future will hold. But whatever the future is, the university is not going out of business, number one,” Sheeley continued, “Number two, we’ll adjust to it as much as we possibly can. And we do have our thresholds, and we’re not going to go below it. And so, we’ll deal with it.”

This threshold is essentially a safety net to ensure certain critical elements of different departments are not compromised due to the free. For facilities that means if a certain number of people leave for whatever reason, and the number of facilities custodians or other staffers are not enough to sustain the proper level of safety and health precautions, then they’ll hire replacements.

Sheeley elaborated, “If I have five people retired tomorrow. And if I needed those five positions filled to maintain that threshold. I would request them to be filled, and my administrator, Mr. Rozewski, he would submit that request, and justify it to the system office.” Sheeley was adamant about not compromising the SCSU community’s safety or good during the hiring freeze.

Both Sheeley, and Rozewski had both stressed not allowing the hiring freeze to impact the students because as Rozewski put it, “The students are the reason’s we’re here. So, it’s all about minimizing the impact on the students.”

Certain duties by facilities such as vacuuming rugs less frequently or lower priority tasks will take less precedence over obligations to safety and health. During periods when there is not a hiring freeze, there is always a high turnover rate. Yet, it is not unheard of for facilities to have to shift through 600 applicants for a position or two. The hiring freeze makes the turnover rate more noticeable and impactful to duties.

Gamble does note that the Facilities Operation Department is doing their best despite the current difficulties.

“They’re doing their best. Things could be worse. I get that they’re understaffed and they’re really trying.”

Photo Credit: Jenna Stepleman


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