Hot N’ Cold
“Hi, what’s your name?”
Last week was disgustingly humid. Icky, sweaty, walking through soup humid. Every time I took a step sweat poured out. The humidity was pretty much the only thing I could talk about all week.
It was Wednesday, and I had to get from my air-conditioned room, through the halls of my un-air-conditioned dorm, across the quad to Spanish. As I was walking through said un-air-conditioned hallway, I overheard a snippet of one of our Duke housekeeper’s phone conversations:
“I would like to report on the working conditions,” she said. “They have air-conditioning for the students in their rooms, but none in the hallways for everyone else.”
This comment connected the (very obvious) dots for me: the staff clean the hallways, the hallways don’t have air conditioning, therefore, the staff must be very hot. I had never given much thought to the fact that if I thought my four minute walk between ACs was uncomfortable, then the people who spend all day working in these un-air-conditioned halls are far more affected.
I was ashamed of myself. And to make it worse, I did not even know her name.
These staff members spend all day cleaning up after us, making our residence halls inhabitable and welcoming, and in return we provide them with uncomfortable, and frankly unsafe, working conditions.
In my first two months at Duke, I have noticed a divide within our community. We care so deeply about fighting the inequality and divisions of the world, yet many of us, myself included, are disconnected from a huge part of our own community. Staff members like the janitorial crew, market place servers, and bus drivers are essential to Duke, our school could literally not function without them, yet their contributions often go unappreciated. At the very least, all members of our Duke community deserve to feel safe, respected, and valued.
As students, we have both the ability and responsibility to make sure that all members of our community feel this inclusion. Certainly this requires that we provide air conditioning for our janitorial staff on scorching days. But it can also begin with the simple act of asking someone’s name.