We’ve had a lot of weather recently in DC, leading the university to delay the start of normal class and administrative activities for a couple of days. I am fortunate to live close enough to campus to walk to my office. Hence, I was able to go to campus much before the official start of classes.
The snowfall was not much of an event relative to the typical Midwest or New England experience. Of course, in Washington, it generated a frantic rush to grocery stores for milk and toilet paper. Survivalist sentiments were common.
I walked to campus before the local neighborhood cleanup of the snow had really begun. Order had not yet return to the spaces — ice where snow had been compacted; a few inches of untouched snow elsewhere on neighborhood walks.
But as I approached the campus, I encountered a different scene. Clearly, Georgetown staff had been at work much before I arrived.
The walkways were basically clear. De-icer must have been applied much earlier in most places. Others were shoveled out.
Some of the crews were still finishing their work.
There were no students about that I could see. I assumed they were still nestled in their beds. I encountered no faculty, as classes had flipped to online delivery.
In a way, it brought back memories of the days of the pandemic when all classes were online and the vast majority of students had left campus residence halls.
On this day, the cleared walkways and work groups preparing the campus once again reminded me that Georgetown depends on a set of staff who are rarely seen by students and faculty. They show up early. They prepare the campus while most others aren’t there. On snow days, they are key to the safety of movement of all of us.
But they’re always a part of the university. They clean offices in the evenings. They are on call when pipes break, elevators get stuck, and electronic locks fail. They arrive early to prepare the foods that students, staff, and faculty consume on the campus. They prepare classroom technology for use. They get the shuttle buses warmed up and provide a way to campus. They are integral to everything that occurs at the university but are too infrequently visible for a “thank you.”
Faculty and students assume an ordered environment to do their work. It is produced, however, by many other colleagues who reestablish that environment each day. It’s only when external forces produce some disorder (like a snowstorm) that their work becomes more visible.
The university offers various gatherings and some awards for such service, but we all have a responsibility to thank those providing this work that brings order to the campus. To them, thanks for a job well done!