The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
We often overlook just how much work it takes for our campus to stay maintained and running. Behind the scenes, hardworking staff are feeding us and keeping our campus clean and safe. On a college campus that houses thousands of students at a time, this is no small feat. However, these services are not always recognized as such, and are taken for granted. Students often forget that the staff who are running campus play just as vital a role in their educational experience and deserve as much respect and acknowledgement as staff in the classroom.
As basic as this may sound to some of us, many students contribute to marginalizing the service workers of our university. With people who occupy “low class” occupations being marginalized across the board, this is unfortunately unsurprising. The maltreatment of service workers across the board is already an unfortunate and common phenomenon. Classism is alive and well, and on our campus where the median family income of students is $155,300 and 67% of our student body comes from the top 20%, this raised valid concerns for the treatment of our service workers.
As a Federal Work Study student, I can see that this classism is nowhere near invisible. Additionally, AU does not necessarily have the best record of protecting its employees in general, and is known for being anti-union. Having spent much time in those roles myself, I have experienced my fair share of disdain, rudeness, and even aggression from customers. In my own on campus job, disorganization often ends up affecting employees negatively in terms of scheduling and hours, enough so to motivate my fellow employees (including myself) to organize and express frustration.
Employees on campus who are not students may be in a uniquely disadvantaged position when it comes to how they are treated. I have observed that students on campus tend to ostracize campus workers even more than service workers in general. In a community that is mostly divided between students and those who work for the university, students are often just surrounded by their peers in campus life and are not held accountable for being respectful and courteous. While we might think that college-age students don’t need to be, unfortunately classism does not appear to dissipate with age. In an environment where it can easily feel like the population is divided into either students or staff, students often completely lack empathy for employees and service workers.
It is well known that socioeconomic status has immense devising power. People who provide low-status and low-pay services are constantly being emotionally abused by those who consider themselves to be of higher status. On a campus of mostly affluent students, this raises valid concerns about the wellbeing and treatment of our on campus employees.
This phenomenon is visible to other students on campus as well. In a survey distributed on social media to the student body, over 70% of respondents said that they believe students are prone to being insensitive to and taking advantage of students on campus.
A college campus can put its service workers in a uniquely disadvantaged position when it comes to how they are otherized by the people who benefit from their services. Any campus is going to have dysfunctions and living spaces are not going to be perfect, and as a result people like maintenance staff are often unappreciated and inherently marginalized, which may be exaggerated in a place like a college campus where they can all-too easily become invisible.
When it comes to how you can bridge this rift, being courteous and kind goes a long way. Don’t forget to engage with our service staff like you would with anyone else, and keep in mind all that they do for us. Our experience at American is provided by all of AU’s hardworking employees, not just those who are the most visible.