Trash collection and other custodial services have been swept away by budget cuts
By Jackson Hare, Campus News Editor
Following updates made to cleaning services that have been in effect since Sept. 1, discussion has ensued regarding Xavier’s prioritization in the face of budgeting and cost cutting.
On Aug. 30, Office of Physical Plant sent a memorandum that detailed a number of changes that they would be making to cleaning practices and trash collection on campus. According to the memorandum, these changes were necessary to continue providing the best service possible while adhering to new budget constraints.
“We were given our budget for the fiscal year and…in order to meet the budget, we had to reduce some of our expenses,” Vice President for Facilities Bob Sheeran said.
Physical Plant reduced its staff, with collection of trash and recycling in private areas being discontinued. Instead, trash will be collected daily from central locations within buildings. Individuals will be responsible for bringing their trash to these locations.
According to Sheeran, an audit was done that identified over 4,000 return receptacles on campus being emptied every day, requiring a great deal of labor on a campus with two and a half million square feet. He feels cutting back on the amount of receptacles is a sensible solution.
“This is what I do at my house. I don’t have wastebaskets in every bedroom, in the family room and in the kitchen. I’ve got something in the bathroom, I’ve got something in the kitchen, and when I get finished, I just go there and dispose of it,” Sheeran said.
“I’d be hard pressed to see if any of these changes will impact people’s day-to-day lives,” he continued.
According to Associate Professor of Sustainability and Global Cultures History at Xavier Dr. Suparna Chatterjee, this is indicative of a bigger issue.
“Cleanliness practices have cultural and political resonance,” she said. “In fact, the history of sanitation and disease in colonial Africa and Asia shows that cleanliness infrastructures were often strategically installed to reproduce entrenched social hierarchies. In this sense, what gets to be ‘clean’ and what remains ‘unclean’ are issues related to power and privilege.,” Chatterjee continued.
During University Convocation on Oct. 11, administration announced that they will be hiring an outside consultant to address the budget deficit and to make Xavier more fiscally sustainable. This involves cutting wasteful spending.
With respect to changes seen as a result of this initiative, Chatterjee suggested that it is telling of the university’s priorities during a time of financial uncertainty.
“Within postcolonial literature, management of garbage has everything to do with societal priorities and commitments. Indeed, lack of cleanliness infrastructures have often signaled a coming of crisis — a sign of social and political brittleness. In a similar vein, at an institutional level, when trash becomes visible it appears to portend a certain crisis that is yet to come,” she said.
Recognizing this prioritization, Sheeran added that within Physical Plant’s budget, cleaning services are by far the largest expense, making it an easy target for budget cuts.
“I think often, facilities are kind of a low hanging fruit when you’re at an institution of higher education… President Hanycz talked about the transformation process. We’re gonna be looking at all aspects of the university to try and squeeze out the waste, and we’re totally supportive of that… At the end of the day, we’re all here to support the students. And if we’re just spending money picking up garbage that doesn’t need to be picked up every day, that isn’t serving students. I don’t think it’s too much to ask,” he said.
“The roll back of cleaning services evidenced in uncollected trash, unclean bathrooms, stained carpets in offices and elevators and the stench in hallways are all part of what might be called the ‘geography of crisis,’” Chatterjee said.
“While not intentional, the lack of cleanliness practices can signal neglect and devaluation. Indeed, if it becomes part of our everyday experience, it can become a sign of institutional fragility and instability. In short, cleaning practices are important. Growing up, I have heard that ‘cleanliness is godliness.’ By that token, Xavier must address the issue of cleanliness not only as a matter of cost cutting but as a matter of morale, care, and love for its community,” Chatterjee said.