Keeping campus clean: meet the custodial staff

The beauty and cleanliness of St. Olaf is undeniable, from the scenic views through the windows of Regents, to the spotless tiles in Buntrock, all the way to the comfortable and cozy dorms. The unsung heroes of St. Olaf who maintain this quality are the custodial staff. These are the people that go above and beyond their daily duties in order to put St. Olaf’s best face forward.

Rosa Payes is one of Ytterboe Hall’s best custodians. While each residence hall has a custodial team, each custodian is assigned to different parts of the building and given separate tasks. They do a lot more than just clean and report maintenance problems; they also serve as mechanics.

“Before we report something is broken, we make an effort in doing what we can to try and fix it on our own,” Payes said.

Payes gave some insight about the process of student maintenance reporting. Whenever a student has a problem with a fixture in their room, be it the furnace, the overhead light or a squeaking door, they can request that it be repaired on a clipboard usually found in the utility rooms or at the hall’s front desk.

“Sometimes I think [the students] don’t know we have keys to their rooms. They often don’t specify exactly what is not working, so we go and check for ourselves and report what is the issue,” Payes said.

The custodial staff take their jobs seriously and work hard to keep things working and running smoothly for students. If the janitors are unable to fix a maintenance problem, they report it to their supervisors and a specialist checks it out.

The work of cleaning and maintaining residence halls is much different from cleaning Buntrock Commons or an academic building. Payes enjoys working in residence halls because of the lively atmosphere.

“It is different working in residence halls, because we are always around and the students always seem very friendly towards us,” Payes said.

Susan Kulsrud works on the other side of campus, in Regents Hall of Natural Sciences. Kulsrud has been a custodian at St. Olaf for 26 years.

“You wouldn’t stay if you didn’t enjoy it,” she said.

Kulsrud begins work everyday at 5:00 a.m., making her way through the bathrooms, sweeping the floors, cleaning offices and, of course, cleaning each individual lab. She also has to clean all of the windows and shovel the snow during the winter.

“What I enjoy is that being here makes me feel young. I get to know students who hang out in my building a lot, and I love being a part of the college atmosphere,” Kulsrud said.

She emphasized that many on the janitorial staff share her sentiment and enjoy interacting and spending time around students. The occasional “hello” or “good morning” to St. Olaf custodians can go a long way and lead to great friendships.

“I know custodians who have kept in touch with students for more than 20 years. We are able to have a relationship with the students, which gives us pride in our job,” Kulsrud said.

Kulsrud finds that students are eager to engage with the custodial staff.

“I previously worked in the theater building and the music building and have been invited by students before to their recitals and their performances,” she said. “I always try and make a point and go.”

Both Payes and Kulsrud, as well as other custodians at St. Olaf, go above and beyond their assigned tasks, whether it is helping to fix maintenance problems, cleaning up post-weekend dorm bathrooms or being a friend to a student in need.