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The Reflector

The Student Newspaper of Mississippi State University

The Reflector

The Student Newspaper of Mississippi State University

The Reflector

Unsung heroes tasked with cleaning campus every single day

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Delois Mickens cleans for Deavenport Hall on the north side of campus.

After a particularly bad loss in a football game, Christy Bash went into a bathroom of Magnolia Hall and could not believe what she saw.

Bodily fluids were smeared all over the walls, ceiling and toilets of the bathroom. Bash put on her blue rubber gloves, and with the help of her fellow cleaners, brought out the water hose to purge the bathroom of the condensed filth that soaked the walls and ceiling of the room.

No one would wish this on their worst enemy, but for Bash and her coworkers, it was a particularly extreme instance of what they had to deal with every academic year at Mississippi State University.

Bash, along with Tomecia Turnipseed and Delois Mickens, are three of the 60 cleaners currently staffed under the university’s housing department. Their job is to keep the dormitories on campus clean for everyone.

Of course, with campus containing 16 residence halls and roughly 22,000 students, it is not an easy task. It is especially difficult during the summer when they have to clean each and every dorm individually, by hand.

“It’s rough during the summer,” Bash said. “During the school year, you pretty much can balance it out … It’s a lot of walking, but during the summertime, I think pretty much everybody would say summertime is where it gets going.”

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They come in during the early morning hours and clean almost all day, picking up trash and mopping the floors. When cleaning, they keep in mind who they are cleaning for.

“It’s always important to keep the building clean for students because they are away from home,” Mickens said. “So, to us, we are their parents really when they get here.”

While this may be a tall task, their hard work does not go unnoticed by the students living in the residence halls across campus.

Many of the cleaners try to communicate and build relationships with the students. Turnipseed likes to leave goodies such snacks, candy and various toiletries for students in their dorms. Her actions have left a lasting impression on students, who thank her for her actions. This is a part of the reason Turnipseed keeps coming back for work every day.

“I enjoy every single day,” Turnipseed said. “It’s not often that you’re going to find me missing a day. I enjoy interacting with the residents, the staff and it’s just a joy being here.”

Residence halls, however, are only a portion of the university that needs to be cleaned. There is also an entire outdoors landscape that requires care in order for it to remain clean and tidy for parents taking their soon-to-be high school graduates on tour, as well as for the university to take photos for its promotions.

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Zebedee Rice, who works with seven other people in the university’s detailing crew, is tasked with cleaning over 1,000 acres and maintaining over 200 trash cans across campus every single day, eight hours a week.

“The challenge is every day to make sure everything looks good for people who are busy,” Rice said. “Also, for the students and also for our faculty and staff. That’s our main goal [to make] campus look as good as possible.”

Similarly to cleaning inside the dormitories, cleaning miles of land and hundreds of trash cans can be quite hectic. Rice recalls several instances of having to scrape the shriveled-up gum off of or around the lid, as well as the messy liquids that coagulate at the bottom of the can.

Now, with so much area to cover on campus, ranging roughly 1,600 acres from Chadwick Lake down to Magnolia Hall, there is guaranteed to be at least one person leaving a mess behind. There are several reasons for their mess, according to the people who have to clean up after those who do not.

“I think it be the freshman,” Bash said. “The ones just coming out, leaving home for the first time. You’re excited, you’re on your own … You’re going to have a few in every building that’s not going to [clean up after themselves].”

While it could be age, it also could be someone in a rush, who simply did not even think about cleaning up their mess before realizing they are late for class and have to start moving.

“It’s kind of normal that sometimes you’d be in a hurry,” Rice said. “You don’t have time, due dates, you can try to change or maybe try and change classes. Wherever they see an area, they lay it there, and it’s our job to make sure we go back and get it and make it look spic and span every day.”

With so much to keep spic and span every day, one might wonder why they keep coming back.

For people like Rice, it is about family.

“I love working at Mississippi State,” Rice said. “My brother and uncle used to work here, so it’s kind of like the family thing, but they have retired now.”

For people like Bash, it is a job where she finds comfort and stability every day.

“I’m comfortable,” Bash said. “I like interacting with my students. I like interacting with other staff members. Either way you look at it, it’s a job and it definitely helps pay your bills. It don’t help pay all of your bills. I have to work two jobs, but it’s laid back. As long as you’re doing your job and doing what you’re supposed to do. We have great supervisors. I can speak for my supervisor. I actually enjoy coming to work. It was a time where it made me sick to my stomach to call but now it’s okay. It’s okay. I love it. I wouldn’t trade it for the world.”

While it is a job that might not be every person’s cup of tea, the people tasked with it do their best to make life at Mississippi State a better for everyone, one piece of litter at a time.

“We do it with pride, because you know, we want to hear that ‘We thank you. It looks good,'” Rice said. “That makes us feel better.”

About the Contributor
Colin James
Colin James, Staff Writer
Colin James is a senior communication major. Colin is currently a staff writer for The Reflector.
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