Established 1885

The Washburn Review

Established 1885

The Washburn Review

Established 1885

The Washburn Review

Washburn student takes on the fight for custodians to get higher pay

Washburn custodians express concerns over low pay wages. Deandre Harvey, sophomore integrated studies major, started a petition to help bring awareness to the issue and fight for a higher pay. (Graphic by Aja Carter)

Custodians at Washburn University play a very important role on campus. Keeping the university clean can be tough and sometimes very dirty, but they do it with a smile and are kind to the people on campus. The custodians on campus have recognized how much they love their career choice and how much Washburn depends on them. Recently, there has been a shortage of custodians and their pay has been a problem.

Deandre Harvey, sophomore integrated studies major, has taken it upon himself to start a petition to raise the pay wage for WU’s custodial workers. After talking to a custodian, Harvey realized there was a need for change.

“I was talking to one of the facility workers, and they told me how much they are making,” Harvey said. “They are only making $13 an hour. So I thought it was a low-pay wage. Then I was talking to some members from BSU [Black Student Union]. I was talking to them about trying to get this petition started to try to get them a higher pay wage.”

Alumna Anna-Marie Lauppe was a student worker here at Washburn and is now a psychology professor. She believes that it is unfair how custodians’ pay almost amounts to student workers’ pay.

“To say that they’re making the same amount as a 19, 20-year-old college student in a student position, I feel like that’s just an insult to what they do,” Lauppe said. “Whenever I was in a student job here, one of the reasons why they said they couldn’t pay us more is because we were making as much or if not slightly more than some of the custodial staff.”

Over the summer, former Washburn Student Government Association President Shayden Hanes and Vice President Quinn Leffingwell were able to raise student pay. It changed from $7.85 to $10 an hour and is now $10 to $12.

“Like, one of our student workers said, ‘I make $12 an hour so maybe it is time to reevaluate those people who do more for us than someone else,’” said Carly Nunez, executive assistant for strategic enrollment management and student success.

The custodians agree a change needs to happen. They feel they aren’t getting paid enough compared to the amount of work they do for the Washburn campus.

“When you got grounds and custodians are underpaid, and we bust our butts around here to make this place look nice and clean, we don’t get recognition for it, or recognized for what we do. Only ones that see us is the students,” an anonymous custodian said.

Leslie Williams, senior custodian, shares these same feelings. While she works hard, picks up extra tasks and brings her best every day, she’s finding it hard to live comfortably and provide for her family.

“I’m at the point where I either put gas in my car or buy sweet potatoes to take down to Thanksgiving,” Williams said.

While their productivity is high, unfortunately, their pay is low, causing them to seek out another source of income.

“That’s forcing some of our facility workers to have to go out and get second jobs, because doing the stuff that they do here on campus, you can’t live off $13 an hour. Even McDonald’s employees get paid more than $13 an hour. Why can’t our facility workers here at Washburn University get paid $15 to $17 an hour for the stuff they do?” Harvey said.

The cost of living in Topeka can be expensive with a family, rent, insurance, a car, bills and much more. Custodians have to work more than 40 hours a week to provide for themselves and their families if they have one. Nunez feels strongly about this.

“They have families, many dependents, some of them pick up lots of overtime just to provide for themselves and for the individuals that they have to provide for, so $12 and $13 an hour may not amount to enough and then once you amount for taxes and having to work all those extra hours for insurance and insurance for their spouses, if they have any, there isn’t always a lot after the fact,” Nunez said.

Although some of Washburn’s custodial staff has sought out other sources of income, it doesn’t compare to the realities of inflation. Prices continue to rise, and so do custodians’ concerns.

“There is so many things going up that we can’t really live off of what we’re making. Some of us have to work two jobs,” an anonymous custodian said.

Lauppe recognizes how custodians treat her and recognizes they aren’t in the spotlight for the work they do. She feels they still should be paid a liveable wage simply because they are people providing a campus service that is much needed.

“It’s more than just doing their job. It’s the impact as well and a lot of times, they’re just kind of behind-the-scenes players and I feel like they should get more credit for what they do,” Lauppe said.

Harvey is trying to rally as many signatures as possible for his petition, with hopes to take it to higher-ups and see change.

“I’m hoping to increase their pay wage so this doesn’t happen in the near future so we can get more custodians and facility workers here on campus,” Harvey said.

This petition has the potential to help the custodial staff make liveable wages and continue doing their job without seeking other employment.

“I like what I do. I enjoy my job, but something has to be done,“ an anonymous custodian said.

For those who feel strongly about this concern and would like to sign the petition, contact [email protected] or fill out this form.

Comment your thoughts on Washburn’s wages for custodians.

Edited by Jeremy Ford and Jayme Thompson

View Comments (4)
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Mia Anthony
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Hello, I'm Mia! I'm a freshman marketing major. I am the assistant marketing manager for Student Media. As the assistant marketing manager I assist with reaching out to local advertisers, social media analysis, and google analytics. After graduation, I plan to pursue a career in digital marketing.
Aja Carter
Aja Carter, Editor-in-Chief Washburn Review
Hello, my name is Aja! I am a senior mass media major with a concentration in journalism and the Editor-in-Chief of the Washburn Review. I'm originally from Virginia, but I've lived in a couple of other states. I really enjoy writing, music, and spending time with my family. Outside of school and reporting for Student Media, I volunteer at my church, Light of the World Christian Center.
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  • J

    JackieDec 11, 2023 at 10:43 am

    A custodian on campus played a HUGE role in my getting through law school and studying for the bar exam. Every single morning he greeted me and we had conversations about so many things. Not only did he work for Washburn, but he had a second job – he works so hard, and I know every custodian on campus does as well. Every person I met that works behind the scenes at WU takes such pride in their work and adores the students. Their work does not go unnoticed, and their pay should reflect that.

  • L

    Leah DixonDec 9, 2023 at 2:39 pm

    The adage of “We are Washburn” wouldn’t mean half as much as it does without the inclusion of the many, many people behind the scenes who make us as great as we are. The backbone of this great university is the men and women who work in the kitchens, the custodians, the support staff that ensures we have clean, safe places to study, that we have good, nutritious food available in clean, safe dining halls. They maintain the beauty of our campus, the cleanliness of our public and private buildings, our stadium, library, bookstore, all the nooks and crannies where we congregate to study and goof off are all maintained by support staff. Without all of their hard work, we would not be a university of pride. It’s past time these individuals were recognized for all of their work and paid a wage that reflects that recognition. We have to remember that we couldn’t be here without them and they definitely could work elsewhere, and make more money. We don’t want to be known as stingy or divisive. If an institution wants to be thought of as great, then we have the responsibility of making sure we make it great! Non nobis solum! I challenge everyone to sign DeAndre Harvey’s petition for better wages for our incredible support staff. To fully understand it is not just for ourselves alone. If we allow one among us to suffer, we have failed.

  • T

    Tish steeleDec 8, 2023 at 8:44 am

    I also agree every Washburn and Washburn Tech employee needs better Pay. I understand this is a topic for Washburn University but please don’t leave out Washburn Tech.

  • A

    AnonymousDec 7, 2023 at 1:32 pm

    Yes, I believe the custodial and facilities staff need higher wages. But, they are not the only position here at WU that needs higher pay. You can ask some of Washburn’s staff that has been here for over 20 – 30 plus years what their hourly wage is.