Halfway through class yesterday afternoon I noticed my iPhone was nowhere to be found, and I’m pretty sure my frantic searching was not unnoticed by my classmates and professor. After class let out I spent the next half hour in a panicked state, retracing all the steps I had taken that day to no avail. Finally, I called it quits, sat down, pulled out my laptop, and typed in the URL of my last resort: icloud.com.
I logged in to Find My iPhone, and my worst fears were realized. I watched the little green dot that was my phone move slowly across the screen—past the South Side, past the state line, and into Indiana. It was gone forever, and I needed to let my parents know. I instinctively reached for my phone in my pocket to call my mom, but then remembered it wasn’t there, it was in some other state. I futilely sent a message to my phone from iCloud, asking the finder to please call my parent’s home telephone number, but I had little hope of actually ever seeing my phone again. I mean, it was in another state.
But then, through a series of Facebook messages and borrowed cell phones, I learned that someone had actually called my parents to return my phone! A Facilities Services staff member named Greg, who happens to live in Indiana, had found my phone while making his rounds in the Social Science Research building that afternoon. He told me to meet him at eight the following morning to claim it. I couldn’t even believe my luck!
When I woke up the next morning, I realized it would be rude for me not to do more than simply thank Greg. In my determination to make him some homemade chocolate chip cookies, I lost track of the time. I grabbed the barely cooked cookies from the oven, threw them in a small backpack, and proceeded to run to the Social Sciences Research Building faster than I have ever run since my high school track days. When I got to the building huffing and puffing and met with Greg he handed over my phone, but to my dismay he refused my cookies. I left the meeting feeling unfulfilled, as if I still owed him something.
I went onto the Facilities Services website to find out who exactly this man was and how I could get him some recognition for the tremendous service he had done me. Unfortunately, facilities staff members aren’t in the UChicago directory, and their website has no place to leave comments. I then tried calling the H.R. managers for Facilities Services, but was unable to get in touch with anyone. I even checked to see if Facilities Services had a Facebook page where I could leave a comment, but no luck there, either. So, in the absence of any other form of commentary, I decided to write this piece hoping that maybe I could get Greg some recognition for the trouble he went through to help me and his outstanding integrity.
On another note, I find it quite troubling that Facilities Services has no outlet for comments, where people can express appreciation for the men and women who do so much to keep our campus running. There is only an Internet form where you can “request a service.” I also found it disturbing that none of the employees who actually engage in maintenance work are even listed in the directory (at least that I could find), even though their managers are.
All of these hoops I had to jump through to try and find a way to recognize one of the facilities staff members made me think about how facilities employees are treated at this University. My mind jumped to the story I heard fall quarter about facilities employees being banned from using the elevators in the administration building, perhaps because they were not seen as presentable to individuals visiting the president’s office. For appearance’s sake, they were forced to walk up the stairs, tools and maintenance supplies in tow (the University ended the policy last October). It seems to me that the University, consciously or not, is pushing the facilities employees into the background; even their uniforms (all blue-grey from head to toe) seem to make them fade into the walls. Given that maintenance work is what keeps our campus safe and functional, I think that Facilities Services staff should be considered a part of the University community and respected for the work they do.
To promote awareness of facilities staff members and to make sure they feel appreciated, I have two recommendations for the University: (1) Put a bulletin board up in the buildings with photos, names, and titles of the facilities staff who work there, and (2) Create a forum for commentary and public recognition of exemplary staff members. Both of these may go a long way in creating relationships between the staff members and the community, and are simply the right thing to do.
Everyone deserves to be recognized in his or her community, and the facilities staff does a lot for us. It is our responsibility as benefactors of their hard work and good deeds to make sure they are recognized and to make them feel like a part of the community. I urge the University community to be active in making facilities staff members feel appreciated. Who knows, the next facilities staff member you run into in the hallway might be the one who finds your phone.
Kristie Sanchez is a third-year in the College majoring in anthropology.