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Univ. should do more to accommodate dedicated workers

By Zach Phil Schwartz

Section: Opinions

January 30, 2015

This week’s “snowpocalypse” left Brandeis with a lot to deal with and very limited resources to do it. More two feet of snow fell in our area, on top of the snow we got last weekend. During the last few days, facilities and Sodexo workers have worked tirelessly to keep essential parts of campus open, sometimes at their own expense. In times like this, we need to make sure that those devoted workers are properly cared for in extreme situations.

As I was walking half-asleep through my hall in the early hours of Tuesday morning, I noticed a few facilities workers I had seen working in my building earlier asleep on the couches in my floor’s lounge. After a long day, instead of being able to return home, extenuating circumstances forced them into student quarters. Although I cannot emphasize enough the difficult circumstances caused by the storm that left so many workers on or near our campus, that doesn’t mean that the university shouldn’t have a contingency plan for such occasions.

Earlier, on that Monday, Sodexo workers scrambled to close the Usdan food courts and C-Store, where you could swear by the panic the world was literally about to end. I’m assuming they were trying to get as many workers as they could off campus before they were snowed in, and they did a magnificent job of keeping order. By the end of the night, only Sherman remained open and staffed. I don’t know how many Sodexo workers ended up staying on campus, but it wouldn’t be a stretch to guess that some were faced with the situation given the facilities workers I saw sleeping in the lounge.

In the event of a major snow event or any other incident that would isolate Brandeis from the outside world, I believe that there needs to be a contingency plan to deal with the workers that, knowing full well the impending consequences, decide to come into work and risk not being able to return home for a while. For those hardworking facilities workers to have had to stay in that lounge was not right, especially given the important work they do.

At the very least, the university should make some sort of appropriate housing arrangements available for those workers who are not returning to their homes in these situations. Instead, we need to make sure that services that employ student workers have the resident students work during later shifts so that anyone who can get home, does get home before inclement weather starts. I’m not advocating giving student workers more work to do, but these student workers do live here, and it’s easier for them to get home. We need to see to it that non-essential personnel make it home safely while essential personnel work with student workers. In that way, there are minimal numbers of stranded workers in this department.

In departments with and without student workers who do end up working during situations like those we faced earlier this week, extra compensation is more than deserved for these workers. If they devote their time to serve our community, they deserve the extra compensation. In times when it might be better for these workers to stay at home, perhaps with their families, they come in anyway and work just as hard as they normally would, if not harder. They are members of our community, and they deserve the same love and kindness we try to show each other. It’s times like this that binds our community together, and these workers stay to clean our dorms, fix our pipes and cook our food. It’s only right that they are compensated and accommodated by Brandeis for their unparalleled devotion.

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