Under current standards University expansion could require 115 new janitors

Update — June 18, 2015: In an op-ed published in the Tufts Daily on April 27, Patricia Campbell, Tufts VP, and Linda Snyder, VP of Operations wrote, “The reorganization takes into account the new facilities that are currently under construction.”

Because the Collaborative Learning and Innovation Complex is the only building included in the 275,000 square foot expansion estimate, which was, at that time, under construction, the op-ed seems to indicate that the reorganization factored in that additional 95,000 square feet.

Over the next several years, Tufts University could expand its building footprint by 275,000 square feet, despite recently moving forward with protested layoffs to custodial staff.

This size expansion, based on estimates from DTZ, the company to which Tufts contracts their custodial services, would require 115 janitors* to clean.

Breaking down the numbers, the 275,000 figure results from totaling the estimated square footage of three projects:

  • The Tufts’ Collaborative Learning and Innovation Complex (CLIC) at 574 Boston Ave which displaced artisan workers who previously leased the building. It is scheduled to open this year and is approximately 95,000 square feet.
  • The Science and Engineering Complex which will be built “on [the] parcel of land that fronts Dearborn Road, behind Anderson and Robinson halls” in order to foster collaboration among Tufts scientists. It is scheduled to open in 2017 and is estimated at 80,000 square feet.
  • A new academic building, announced on June 15, will be built at the MBTA’s GLX College Avenue station as a “a home for ‘outward reaching’ academic endeavors”. The opening date is expected to coincide with the train station in 2020 and the designs estimate the building to be 100,000 square feet.
The approximate area on campus where each of these projects will take place. Green: Tufts University. Red: The new academic building associated with the T station on College Ave. Blue: The location of the Science and Engineering Complex as described by this Tufts Now article. Yellow: 574 Boston Avenue, the location of the new Tufts’ Collaborative Learning and Innovation Complex (CLIC).

To put the scale of these projects into perspective, the Mayer Campus Center is 22,000 square feet and the Steve Tisch Sports and Fitness Center (commonly called the “Tisch gym”) is 42,000 square feet.

These three projects then amount to approximately 12.5 times the size of the Campus Center or about 6.5 times the gym.

Despite this large expansion, the university reports that by the end of August it will have laid off 20 of its custodial staff, reducing the number of people available to clean these new spaces.

The university has explained the decision as a matter of efficiency and as “part of a university-wide effort to ensure that our administrative operations better support teaching and research.

Specifically, a publicly available improvement plan, submitted to Tufts by DTZ cites multiple tangible efficiency changes. Most significantly, administrative offices and “non-residential wood frames” will be cleaned weekly, as opposed to daily, and three Tennant Auto Scrubber machines will be purchased which mop over five times as efficiently as traditional mopping.

The cuts will also save the school $900,000 annually, the administration says.

Activists and union representatives, on the other hand, have long opposed the layoffs, citing “institutionalized racism and classism” as motivators for staff cuts which will over-burden already over-worked people.

Vilorio, a Tufts janitor, takes out the trash in West Hall, an upperclassmen dorm at Tufts University, on November 3rd, 2014. (Nicholas Pfosi / The Tufts Daily)

In fact, the issue of increased workload for the smaller janitorial staff has been a significant component of negotiations. Activists claim janitors are already over-worked but the university justifies the reduction with a shuffling of the cleaning schedule:

DTZ’s reorganization plan will equalize custodians’ current workload by reducing frequency of cleaning in some areas, such as staff offices, and increasing the focus on areas where they are needed most, such as dormitories and athletic and library facilities. At the same time, DTZ will provide more efficient and ergonomically advanced cleaning equipment.

But can this adjustment in the cleaning schedule account for an additional 275,000 square feet of space?

According to union sources, DTZ, the company to which Tufts outsources its custodial services, estimates that each janitor should clean about 2,400 square feet per working shift.

Using that calculation, 275,000 more square feet of space would require approximately 115 more janitors, not 20 fewer.

It does remain unclear, though, how DTZ’s 2,400-square-feet-figure could change with the “ergonomically advanced cleaning equipment” the university says will be implemented or what kind of cleaning these buildings will require. It is possible significant parts of the new constructions won’t require cleaning.

DTZ and Tufts University declined to comment.

For some, the expansion projects in the face of the cuts to janitorial staff represent another instance of poor management on the part of the administration.

Roxana Rivera, Vice President of SEIU32BJ, the janitor’s union, said in an email, “The campus expansion is another example of why the administration’s cuts plan goes against what the Tufts community and campus need to thrive.”

Tufts Labor Coalition organizer, Sofia Adams adds, writing in a Facebook message, “Tufts janitors are already heavily overworked and underpaid, it does not make sense to decrease facility services while increasing facilities.”

University spokesperson, Kim Thurler, Vice President, Patricia Campbell, and Vice President of Operations, Linda Snyder declined repeated request for comment on the expansion projects, the staff cuts and the union-DTZ negotiations. DTZ also declined to comment.

*This calculation was made using total square footage, not “cleanable square footage” which is the precise amount of square footage in a building which is regularly cleaned by janitors. The number of cleanable square footage may differ somewhat from total square footage.

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I am a photojournalist and digital reporter with an interest in media innovation, digital platforms, and political systems. I make pictures and report on labor.

I am a photojournalist and digital reporter with an interest in media innovation, digital platforms, and political systems. I make pictures and report on labor.