If you see a piece of trash at 3 a.m. on campus, it’ll be disposed of by 6.
Overnight, trash may blow on campus from busy streets. Fast food bags and cups from late night runs may pepper the parking lots. Wrappers and papers from the day before may be seen here and there.
No problem. By the time dawn arrives, the Grounds staff, part of Facilities Operations, has covered campus, picking it all up.
About 24 members of Grounds check in at 5:30 a.m. They meet for a few minutes when there are particular areas of emphasis – such as the site of an event at the plaza, College Avenue or Foust Park. And then the first hour is devoted to litter patrol. The crew has a map of campus, colorcoded for each small team of individuals. Some sectors, such as the Quad, have one person. Some very public areas have three or four.
Then by 6:30 a.m.or so, they’re ready for their other jobs, says Bill Hardin, a Grounds supervisor.
Those first hours are valuable. On the one hand, they can’t use any noisy equipment near any residence halls until about 9 a.m., so some potential work like mowing and sawing has to be scheduled after that, says Hal Shelton, a Grounds supervisor. But those very early hours mean little car traffic and almost no foot traffic – so getting around and doing jobs quickly is a snap.
“It’s a dirty job, but somebody’s got to do it,” says Shelton.
Grounds does a lot to make the campus attractive, from the planting and mulching to the weeding and leaf pickup. And they don’t like litter messing up the beauty.
“If there’s litter, it takes away from all the other great work the Grounds staff has done,” says Chris Fay, assistant director for Grounds.
He notes that after litter pickup, early each morning, their attention turns to getting up leaves, this time of year – but they have to do it without disturbing sleep.
“We stay away from the dorms.”
Know of any other staff members doing interesting jobs in the overnight hours on campus? University Relations photographers want to hear about it. Email them at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.
By Mike Harris
Photography by David Wilson