We see them everyday, sporting blue uniforms and pushing around carts full of cleaning supplies. Without them, MSU would not function, but what is the day-to-day life of a custodian?
Custodians have a daunting task. With over 956 acres and 57 major academic buildings, 33 of which are greater than 10,000 square feet, there is no shortage of spaces to be maintained.
EJ Hook, Environmental services manager in facility services oversees the 68 members of the custodial staff in the academic buildings. “They do their job 1,000 days and if they don’t do it for one day and the toilet paper is empty, everyone would notice. It’s important to me that when students see them you say, ‘Wow, I didn’t even realize you did your job because you do it so well.’”
Custodian Mae Schaff has spent the past three years working in the residence halls at MSU. She has worked in Hapner Hall and South Hedges and currently works in Roskie Hall. She works Mondays through Fridays from 7:55 a.m. – 4:25 p.m.
During her time in the residence life halls, Schaff has stumbled upon a few interesting things, notably a rotten banana in a condom in a staircase in South Hedges. This anecdote could explain why her favorite residence hall to work in is Roskie, “This building just wins you over, I fell in love with it. The people are always really respectful towards me. Ideally I would like to stay here until I retire.”
Schaff’s duties at Roskie include cleaning the bathrooms, showers and laundry rooms, vacuuming, wiping the walls down and cleaning the staircase. She also cleans the kitchen and lobby area on the first floor.
Of her various tasks, Schaff said cleaning the stairwell is her least favorite. “There are no windows and its stuffy and hot. It is nice because people don’t use the staircase I clean as much as they use the others, which makes my job easier.”
Yet for the most part, Schaff enjoys the floors she cleans in Roskie, “I have good floors; they are all friendly and respectful kids. They keep everything pretty clean and don’t vandalize.”
Working over the summer brings a different set of tasks for Schaff. She is the head housekeeper and the staff works on cleaning all the rooms, stripping, mopping and waxing the floors. Schaff described summers at Roskie with a laugh, “It’s definitely hotter and quieter.” Her hours over the summer increase an hour 6:55 a.m. – 3:20 p.m.
Prior to MSU, Schaff worked at a motel, The Continental. During her time at The Continental she was the head housekeeper, supervisor and eventually became the night manager. Schaff worked there for 27 years and began work at MSU after the motel shut down.
Schaff is looking forward to retirement in two years. She and her husband recently purchased a new truck and are going to explore the surrounding areas and are hoping to escape Montana for the winters.
Joseph Huidekoper is a custodian at the SUB. He cleans the Bobcat Court, the kitchen in the Bobcat Court, the back hallway and a staircase. He works Monday through Friday from 4:30 p.m – 1 a.m.
A member of the Bozeman community for nine years, Huidekoper spent the first three years as a librarian at Bozeman High School and has spent the past six years working at MSU.
Among the perks of his job Huidekoper listed job security and benefits. “People will always make a mess so I always have something to do. It’s good job security … I appreciate the benefits provided here they are better than when I was a teacher.”
Custodial duties in the SUB are fairly regular from day to day, he cleans the bathrooms, empties trash cans, mops, vacuums, cleans the kitchen in the Bobcat Court and the stairwell. Three times a year the custodial staff does a deep cleaning of the SUB — over winter break, spring break and before the school year begins again. A deep cleaning entails cleaning, stripping and waxing of the floors, polishing the wood and scrubbing the walls. If a special event is taking place in the SUB, the custodial staff may also perform a deep cleaning at that time.
Huidekoper has seen noticeable changes take place in the SUB over the past few years, “It has gotten much busier since I’ve been here, and they have squeezed all the space they can out of it. There is not really a quiet corner in the place, simply because there are more students.”
There is a little break in the chaos over summer break. “I miss the hubbub over the summer but it is nice to have it a little quieter, it’s also one of the few buildings air conditioned so that makes it more enjoyable.”
Prior to Bozeman, Huidekoper spent a year in Europe working as a nanny for five kids. He then went to Africa for around four years where he was part of an interdenominational mission. During his time there he worked with others to put in pumps, wells and pipelines for an area that had been in a severe drought. Huidekoper found the opportunity through a local pastor.
Huidekoper is not the only member of his family involved with MSU, one of his four children is an undergraduate student at MSU.
Custodian Gerald Kaminski has worked at MSU for 20 years. He currently cleans the first floor of the Chemistry and Biochemistry Building.
Listing his favorite part of the job was easy for Kaminski, “I love my job and I enjoy talking to and getting to know the students. There is a comfortable relationship with many of them and they can ask me if they need me to do something … I don’t really have a least favorite part of the job it’s all the same. I just do what they want me too.”
His duties in the Chemistry and Biochemistry Building differ from those in the previous buildings which he has worked in, Lewis Hall and Wilson Hall. In Lewis and Wilson, he was cleaning classrooms whereas in his current building he cleans the labs. “This building is my favorite. With classrooms you have jump around to different rooms because there are people in some which is fine but it is just more hassle and then you have to rush to get them done.”
A noticeable difference between the classroom and labs is the flooring, classrooms are sometimes carpeted which means they must be vacuumed whereas the tile floors in labs are swept. Apart from that the duties are fairly similar, he cleans 10 labs, the hallways and bathrooms. He dumps trash, sweeps, cleans the bathrooms, mops and then high buff waxes the floor. Over the summer he works the same shift with fairly similar tasks.
Before coming to Bozeman, Kaminski spent time in California and Saudi Arabia. He spent six years working in Saudi Arabia after his boss in the U.S. informed him of the opportunity. The work he did was similar to custodial work, in a much different atmosphere, “We worked in the kings palace, like our version of the White House.” Kaminski then returned to the states where he worked in a hospital in California.
Retiring is not a priority for Kaminski anytime soon, “I could retire tomorrow but really I am just going year by year, I’m not too worried about it.” When he does retire he plans on going to different places in Montana with his wife.