On Respect for EVS and Dining Services Staff

We at The Phoenix thank EVS and Dining Services staff members for their hard work to keep Swarthmore running. We know that they keep our campus clean and sanitary and make the food that we eat. Students often take these things for granted, but we should take time to be grateful for them. We should also respect the time, labor, and dignity of EVS and Dining Services workers by cleaning up after ourselves as to make their jobs as easy and pleasant as possible. Students, you should treat staff members with respect and as full, valued members of the Swarthmore community.

EVS, Dining Services, and other staff members all work extremely hard to keep Swarthmore College running smoothly for students and faculty. The work they do is taxing, both physically and mentally. This college could not function without EVS and Dining Services staff, yet they are still underappreciated. 

Many students do not know the name of the EVS staff member that cleans their hall and bathroom, and even more students fail to say a polite hello when they see them. When students habitually walk past EVS workers without even greeting them, swipe into Sharples without thanking the Dining Service workers there, and generally act as if campus staff are invisible, it shows that students fail to see campus staff as members of our community. 

Staff members are not robots. They should not be expected to clean up after students who thoughtlessly dirty common spaces. The actions that we can take to demonstrate respect for campus staff are simple. We should compost excess food before sending trays to the dishwasher in Sharples, and change garbage bags on our halls instead of leaving them overflowing. We should keep the bathrooms tidy and never wash dishes in bathroom sinks. We should do our best to clean up accidental spills. Equally importantly, we should make eye contact with campus staff, ask how their day is going, and include them in the campus community. For those students looking to develop deeper relationships with staff members, the Learning for Life program can facilitate partnered projects on a range of topics; past pairs have studied languages, written computer programs, and produced radio shows.

Respect of staff members has to be actively prioritized by our entire community, not just the student body. Therefore, The Phoenix calls upon the college to pay EVS and dining services more. As economic inequality in our society steepens, the college has an obligation to ensure that the people who keep Swarthmore running are paid a living wage that allows them to provide for their families and live comfortably. The lowest hourly wage for staff members, as per Swarthmore’s own website, is thirteen dollars. The lowest annual salary is $27,132, which is only just above the poverty line for a family of four according to the 2019 U.S. Federal Poverty Guidelines. 

Furthermore, many EVS and dining services workers at Swarthmore are people of color, whose experiences of systemic racism can only exacerbate poverty. Black women make up a large share of EVS staff; Black women in Pennsylvania are also, according to calculations made by the National Partnership for Women and Families, paid an average of 66 cents for every dollar made by a white man. Swarthmore educates its students so they can go out and change the world, but Swarthmore should take part in this change by paying its own workers in a way that reflects the massive contributions that EVS and dining services make to our campus.  

Swarthmore and its students fail to uphold the college’s professed values of justice and equity when we disregard people who are essential members of our community. Upholding our values as a community means respecting the dignity of EVS and dining services workers, both as individuals and systemically. 

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