Section: Features

Maintenance improves lives for Kenyon community

Maintenance improves lives for Kenyon community

By Claire Oxford

The maintenance staff members are arguably Kenyon’s unsung heroes.

Of course, many students are entirely friendly with the custodian who cleans their dorm, or the utility worker they see fixing a thermostat. However, it can be easy for some to take for granted the expertise in various maintenance positions, and the importance of the maintenance community in students’ Kenyon experience.

Groundsperson Charles Hurlow commented on the range of interactions with students he has experienced. “I treated lawns [in the past], so I learned how to deal with all types [of people] throughout that and it became the same way here,” he said. “You know, you have some people that are really easy to get along with, some people that think they know more than you, so you have to figure out a way to talk to people.”

While there are some Kenyon students who appear aloof with maintenance staff, most students are polite in their interactions.

“I used to clean Higley [Hall],” custodian Rachel Postle said. “We would start at 11 o’clock and some of the kids in there that stayed late, we would talk to them a little bit then. … Very nice, very pleasant kids. … Some [students] will just keep on walking, but … I do that too sometimes. Depends on what kind of mood you’re in, I guess.”

Outside of day-to-day conversations, positive student-staff relationships have also formed through on-campus employment with maintenance itself. Savannah Daniels ’18, an assistant at the Maintenance Department and a Collegian designer, has found her work environment to be open and receptive.

“There’s this one … nice man; he’s a locksmith, his name is Dave, and he always offers me coffee every day,” she said. “They treat me like I’m a real employee and not just a student worker.”

This positive work environment within Maintenance fosters a strong sense of community among employees. Utility Person Jamie Hamm described his first impressions of Kenyon as a workplace as follows: “You start here and you gain a family,” he said. “It’s so different from, I don’t want to call it the outside, but from where I came from.”

Hurlow even called in a favor from one of his co-workers and friends, Grounds Person P. Brock Hopkins, when he faced a Christmas-related hurdle — warding off his young children’s growing doubts about the existence of Santa Claus.

“My kids had a discussion [one] morning that they’re getting old enough that they aren’t believing in Santa Claus,” Hurlow said. “Well a couple of years ago … I had Brock call my kids. I gave him their wishlists. He called me and asked for the kids, pretended to be Santa and named off what they wanted for Christmas. The kids still remember that clear as day,” he said. “And I think his number’s still in my phone under ‘Santa Claus.’”

This [past] holiday season,  “[Hopkins] call[ed] the kids and encourage them to be young as long as they can and keep the faith of Santa Claus alive,” Hurlow said. “And that’s what we do here; he would do that for anybody on Maintenance.”

Another key aspect of work at the Maintenance Department is its interconnectedness with all parts of the greater Kenyon community. “The coaches will call me up at night and be like, ‘What’s going on with the field?’” according to Hurlow, who added that professors “will stop and ask me, ‘How do I get moles out of my yard?’ … There’s just open communication and friendliness … all the way around campus.”

The maintenance network extends well beyond the College’s boundaries, helping with a continual process of education and innovation in various trades. “We have a little network within the turf nerd community,” Hurlow said. “The guys in professional stadiums might learn something from the guy at Kenyon College. And we’re not afraid to … exchange ideas.”

Despite the fact that Maintenance has such far-reaching connections to the world outside of Kenyon, the focus among employees is ultimately on students’ well-being. “First and foremost that’s why we’re here, for you guys,” Hamm said. “And I absolutely think that’s the way it should be. Because if you’re not comfortable then neither are we.”


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