Stanford students spend their days a few feet away from custodians. However, often the year passes by in silence. This means that custodians don’t feel like their work is appreciate and they are included in the dorm. At the same time, students want to have some interaction with the custodians, but often turn the other direction.
We interview custodians, students, resident assistants, and other stakeholders to understand the problem. We found:
1. There is no system or set of guidelines for incorporating custodians into the dorm community.
Students staff have to start from scratch every year, if they think of it during the busy beginning of the school year.
2. Custodians and students both want to interact with each other. But without any prompt or guidelines, the year devolves into awkward silence.
“I think that students should make the first move to talk to me. But it could be really intimidating for them too. Maybe everyone thinks the other people should make the first move and nobody does.” - Custodian
3. Norms set at the beginning determine the experience for custodians for the rest of the school year.
The resident assistants in some dorms introduced the custodians and made them feel welcomed at the beginning of the year. The custodians in these dorms told us that students welcomed them into the dorm and talked to them throughout the year. However, in the dorms that did not introduce custodians, the year passed in silence.
We created Clean Start: a set of simple but impactful actions that student staff can take to set norms at the beginning of the school year. This included a meeting between resident assistants and custodians before the school year starts, introduction cards that all students receive that ask students to introduce themselves to the custodian, and guidelines for a group lunch in the dining hall.
This will make custodians feel more valued, and will teach Stanford students to build relationships with people different from themselves and be empathetic towards all member of their communities after graduation.
Team: Ariel Liu, Sophia Pink