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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Column: You make a mess, be nice to the people who deal with it

Custodial work is socially classified as blue-collar work, but that doesn’t mean we should stigmatize the blue-collar employees who work on campus. As college students, we shouldn’t feel entitled to make judgments about professions such as custodial work or maintenance.

University of Iowa Ph.D. student Jeremy Reed highlights a blue-collar identity theory that identifies the term “dirty work stigma” associated with the theory in his research on campus custodians. His study credits dirty work as “tasks and occupations that are likely to be perceived as disgusting or degrading.” This is a term that incites one of three types of stigma or taint, according to Reed, the one which pertains to janitorial work is physical taint — jobs dealing with garbage, human waste or death.

In all honesty, college students perceive campus custodial work as this dirty work which, in turn, leads to this stigma that people occupying those jobs are uneducated and unworthy of receiving a higher educational level of work. Sure, college students feel entitled to make these judgments even though they’re the ones making the mess.

Custodial work and people who occupy those jobs are not conjoined; it is never correct to assume that those people embody their work, because it simply is not the case. Unlike a boring professor whose class is also boring, a custodian is not dirty.

In fact, according to Reed’s study “dirty” workers have surprisingly high occupational esteem. Regardless of whether outsiders appreciate the service of those whose job it is to do “dirty” work, it translates into either an esteem-enhancing or an esteem-declining function to the dirty worker.

As a result, no one, especially college students , should ever consider making a custodial worker feel bad about their job. As the mess producers, we do not have the right to stigmatize someone in this so-called “dirty” occupation since we do not know the circumstances of their situation and since we are benefitting directly from their occupation.

College students should also recognize that their existence — the late night library visits and the caffeine addiction — isn’t glamorous either. As such, they have no right to demean or belittle the people around them working to make their experience better.

Reed’s research also indicates a study in which interactions between students, faculty and staff with custodial workers positively impact student success in college. This can’t be more obvious, since it never hurts to say “good morning” or “hello” or even “thank you” to our campus custodial workers. us.

It may even brighten up their day because they are recognized for their hard work and are likely to return the compliment, thus having a direct influence on whether the student will have a better attitude during the day. The better students feel about themselves, the more they will succeed in college.

By extension, custodial workers are seen in Reed’s study as helpers in the institutional mission, and their performance is a clear identifier of student success in college. For example, if a social stigma exists toward dirty workers, they will have a negative esteem towards their work which results in an unsanitary institution. If a student has to reside and study in an unsanitary institution, they will have a more negative outlook towards the institution while straying far from the path of success.

College students and campus custodial staff are both important players at the same institution. As college students, we have a responsibility to rid the stigma toward the dirty work by changing our perceptions on blue-collar jobs. Our custodians have a large impact on our lives, just as we have on theirs. If you refuse to clean your bathroom, at least be kind to the people willing to; it’ll help you both.

Follow Justice Amarillas on Twitter.

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