The trash cans. The floors and the carpets. The walls. And, of course, the bathrooms.
These are just a few of the daily cleaning tasks undertaken by Boise State’s custodial staff.
Custodians are a vital part of the university’s environmental operations. They work in day, night and swing shifts to maintain the classrooms, offices and meeting spaces to support the university’s strategic mission.
Boise State welcomed over 25,000 students to campus this fall after more than a year of mostly remote learning. The rise in students taking in-person classes results in an increase of wear and tear on the facilities.
Custodial staff remain on call throughout their shift to clean up spills, and as university foot traffic increases, the staff has paid extra attention to bathrooms on campus.
“Since the pandemic began the day crew has taken on full cleaning of the bathrooms, where previously they were only restocking during the day and cleaning at night,” said John Barrie, the assistant manager of custodial operations.
One reason for the additional cleaning time is so that students can see for themselves that the bathrooms have been cleaned, Barrie said.
Barrie said that the bathrooms are also cleaned with a pressure washer on the weekends. In addition, custodians use a special disinfectant after each cleaning.
The custodial staff is also responsible for securing campus buildings every night and then unlocking them in the morning before classes start. They raise and lower the flags and act as the eyes and ears for public safety.
“We’re at just about three million square feet of office and classroom space,” said Boise State Environmental Operations Manager Rusty Brummer. “Some of those locations are off-campus, and we’ve had to contract out because we’re short staffed.”
The custodial staff consists of a day crew, two swing crews and three late crews servicing almost every academic space and office. Swing shifts run from 5p.m. until 1:30a.m. Custodians start with office spaces and then move onto classrooms after evening classes end at 9p.m.
Brummer oversees 69 full-time custodians, which is less than 77% of the necessary staff. There are also 21 part-time employees and student workers, which is slightly below average according to Barrie.
“Normally we run with about three to five positions unfilled,” Barrie said. “Currently we have 14 vacant positions.”
Students can apply for positions within the custodial staff that pay $11.55 per hour and help develop skills that can enhance a student’s marketability across a number of trades.
Students who are interested in lowering their tuition expenses can also consider applying for the tuition fee benefit. This benefit reduces tuition to $5 per credit hour for 9 credits each semester, and it can be used by any benefit-eligible Boise State employee or their spouse or dependent.
Barrie has worked at Boise State since 2004, when he started as a custodial worker on the night shift. He decided to take advantage of the tuition fee benefit and enrolled at Boise State.
By enrolling into 9 credits each semester, Barrie had paid only $605 when he graduated in 2020 with a degree in English.
Students can similarly waive their tuition fees at other Idaho institutions like University of Idaho or College of Southern Idaho under reciprocal fee waiver agreements.
Almost 30% of the custodial staff are enrolled in classes, and some of the employee shortages are due to staff advancing into new professional opportunities.
“We want to hire people who want to use the benefits to graduate with a very inexpensive degree from a good school,” Brummer said. “Our focus on hiring has been towards staff like that, instead of just putting a t-shirt on somebody and calling them a custodian.”