By TRACY O’DONNAL
Every day hundreds of BYU students wake up before sunrise to work as campus custodians.
These students are the unseen force behind the cleanliness of the BYU campus. Besides those who actively work as early morning janitors, few other students realize the role these student janitors play.
Even fewer realize the sacrifice involved in providing a positive, spiritual atmosphere here on campus. All campus buildings must be cleaned regularly before students arrive for classes, said Leo Buttars, the supervisor of custodial services for BYU and former student custodian.
“Cleanliness provides an atmosphere that contributes to the education process,” Buttars said.
There are approximately 600 different student custodial jobs available. There are many different shifts, but the main shifts are 4 a.m. to 8 a.m. and 5 a.m. to 9 a.m. Student’s interest in early morning jobs, however, is low compared to the number of jobs available, Buttars said.
“What’s best for us is not always best for students,” Buttars said. “But we do offer a pay differential of about 20 cents to those who work the early shifts.”
Buttars also said it was harder than ever to hire students even though the demand for more custodians is rising as new buildings are constantly being constructed and expanded.
Penny Morrell, manager of student employment, gave four possible reasons for the decline in student interest in on-campus custodial jobs.
“There are more campus jobs available than there were before. There are more off-campus jobs than before,” Morrell said. “It seems that students are taking out more loans than before. They are told not to work by parents, professors and friends because it takes away from their school work.”
To help students become supervisors and work together, Buttars has initiated a few programs he feels will be effective.
“I’m trying to set up student supervisors for next year so that the students themselves will train and work with other students,” Buttars said.
The buildings on campus are divided into 16 custodial areas. Each area contains a part or parts of the 65 buildings. An area is assigned to one full-time area supervisor and student crews averaging between 8 and 13 students.
Those crews are responsible for cleaning the areas to which they are assigned each day before school begins. For example, two workers are assigned to each floor in the Harris Fine Arts Center and are responsible for cleaning it.
One student lead is in charge of helping where needed, while the full-time supervisor makes sure everything gets done. Supervisors don’t mind when they come in, as long as the work gets done.
“We try to accommodate the students to their individual schedules. We try to work with them on it, especially during finals,” said David Brittian, area supervisor for the HFAC custodial crew.
A typical day begins early in the morning while most students are still sleeping. At 3:59 a.m. the night supervisor for one of the HFAC crews, Garth Reece, is preparing to end his shift. His early morning counterpart, Brittian, has already arrived. The two are “pushing papers” in the custodial office. Two female student janitors have already been working for the past three hours.
At 4:07 a.m., the same two female workers head home. At 4:26 am, another worker, Melissa Goodlad, shows up for work. She briefly talks to her supervisor, Brittian, then heads off to work.
“I took this job for the money,” Goodlad said. “I’m on a student loan, and I don’t want to live off of it, so I work to put myself through school.”
At 4:42 a.m. the crew’s student lead, David Blanchard, arrives. The student lead’s job is to double check the work that has been done and finish the job if needed. He checks the newly constructed make-up room, supplying it with towels and emptying the trash cans as he moves from room to room.
“The hours are the best part of the job and the worst. Working early in the morning allows my wife to work while I take care of Nathan (my son),” Blanchard said. “It also gives me time to go to school and still spend time with my family. This is the ideal job for a married person.”
At 5:02 a.m., Blanchard checks the rest rooms for cleanliness and then does some touch-up vacuuming in the Pardoe Green Room. At 5:37 a.m., he vacuums in a newly constructed room. At 5:48 a.m., it’s time to begin the rounds to unlock the doors in the building.
“I started working in the Fall Semester of 1994,” Blanchard said. “I had to bring a Walkman with me to survive that first year. Getting up was the hardest part.”
At 6 a.m., Ross and Jennifer Kolditz, a brother-and-sister team, arrived. Jennifer likes the job because it’s “extremely laid back.” Her brother, Ross, said the job was “low stress” and that was why he liked being an early-morning custodian.
By 6:32 a.m., Blanchard has unlocked all the doors in the building and 11 out of 13 workers are faithfully cleaning their respective areas. All of them are casually dressed, mostly in T-shirts and jeans.
At 7 a.m. the last worker arrives. One person called in sick. All but one of the workers have gone home by 8 a.m. — except for the one who arrived at 7 a.m.. All workers must work a four-hour shift to get their hours for the week.
“It takes about 45 to 50 people to clean the entire HFAC. Crews are constantly working throughout the night and day,” Reece said. “There is always some kind of coverage, always someone here 24 hours a day.”
Even with the early morning hours, the turn-over rate is only about 30 percent, Buttars said.
“It’s usually high at the beginning and end of each semester, but stable in between,” Buttars said.
Starting pay for students who work one of the early morning shifts is $5.60 an hour. For every consecutive semester after the first, the student will receive a 10 cent pay increase. However, the pay is not always what drives a student to work the early shift.
“Students that work this early in the morning have good attitudes. They create good attitudes for the other students throughout the day by doing their job right. If the building is clean, then the students will have a good day. If not, they may have a bad one,” said Ruth Johnson, an area supervisor of 10 years.
Buttars agrees with Johnson’s assessment by adding that cleanliness provides an atmosphere that is conducive to the spiritual atmosphere of this campus that makes education possible.
“We have a different class of people here. That is what makes this campus so unique. No other university would trust their students with the keys to almost every room in a building,” Buttars said.
Almost all of the cleaning takes place before other students even set foot on campus grounds. As the HFAC crew is heading home for a shower, a nap and perhaps a bowl of Lucky Charms, unsuspecting students file into the freshly cleaned buildings for another day of classes. The custodial crew will go throughout the normal course of a day without another thought of the accomplishments of the early hours, only to turn around and repeat the process again early the next morning.