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Friday, June 02, 2023 — Houston, TX

Let’s show our gratitude for campus staff

Photo courtesy Alexa Thomases

By Alexa Thomases     8/23/22 9:23pm

Editor’s Note: This is a guest opinion that has been submitted by a member of the Rice community. The views expressed in this opinion are those of the author and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of the Thresher or its editorial board. All guest opinions are fact-checked and edited for clarity and conciseness by Thresher editors.

“If Seibel serves PAOW one more time, I’m dropping out.” It’s all too common for Rice students to gripe about the food and facilities. I know I’ve been guilty of it. In my experience, complaining sometimes becomes an easy bonding opportunity amongst students: lulls in the conversation are frequently filled with hyperbolic jokes about food at North being inedible or about dorms the size of shoeboxes. I don’t want to dismiss the legitimate difficulties that students with dietary restrictions or accessibility needs face at Rice. However, the majority of complaints I hear seem to come from students who expect luxury but overlook the employees who work so hard to provide for our every need. Rice’s campus staff is incredible and I urge us all to show them more respect and gratitude.

Rice’s Housing and Dining and Facilities Engineering and Planning departments create a quality of life that most college students would envy. The serveries have fruits and vegetables at every meal and always offer a variety of options; the food is ready at our convenience and we never need to wash or bus our own dishes; our college commons are cleaned several times a day. When we accidentally leave trash lying around, H&D employees pick up after us. The lush grass, cozy study spots and 4300 trees across campus are painstakingly maintained without any effort on our part. 

In addition to habitual complaining, another pattern I’ve seen is the tendency to simply ignore Rice’s custodial employees. When we get caught up in our busy schedules, we tend to look right past the people washing our classroom windows, serving our food, constructing our new buildings and tending to our green spaces. In doing so, we treat them as a means to an end rather than with humanity. 

We can do better. 

More importantly, H&D and FE&P employees deserve better. Hours before we wake up just in time for our first class, they’re hard at work preparing breakfast and cleaning bathrooms. They exemplify dedication and consistency year-round, keeping Rice running while we enjoy summer and academic breaks. These staff are an integral part of our Rice community and a key reason why the Rice experience is such an incredible one. 

Last month, the $15-per-hour minimum wage that former President David Leebron announced last November went into effect. I was naïvely surprised to learn that, prior to July 1, many employees in custodial, food service and groundskeeping received the previous minimum wage of $11.50 per hour. Learning this figure was a much-needed reminder that some of the most dedicated and hardworking staff on Rice campus are often underappreciated.

I urge everyone to show a little extra kindness towards campus staff. If you have the financial means, donating to your college’s annual H&D Appreciation Fund is an effective way to materially support H&D staff. Small gestures of warmth and appreciation are important too: asking the dining staff about their weekends when they swipe you into the servery, thanking the groundskeepers in the Academic Quad and saying hi to the custodians who keep your college commons clean. Lastly, we need to respect the work of Rice’s groundskeepers by avoiding taking shortcuts that destroy grass and plants. 

As we return to our beautiful campus this month and remember just how lucky we are to be at Rice, I hope we can be more intentional about showing gratitude for our campus staff members. 

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