Physical Plant deserves your respect

By The Beacon | August 28, 2014 4:00am


By Anthony Montoya |

Junior political science major,

This summer, after my parents provided the ultimatum that my move back to Portland necessitated “gainful employment,” I had the opportunity to work as part of Physical Plant’s paint crew.

I helped paint nearly every part of the University and its outlying rental homes during the course of the summer. Along the way, I learned a new skill - painting - but also learned about the University and the individuals tasked with maintaining it at a closer level.

First, I’d like to address the amount of physical labor necessary to maintain the University of Portland using the example of a single building: Christie Hall.  This summer alone I had to paint the exterior trim of Christie Hall, the lobby, all of the rooms (over 50) and all the walls of the basement.

At the same time I was painting, the wood shop was creating and installing new doors and light fixtures. The grounds crew maintained the landscaping around the building. Housekeeping cleaned the entire dorm in preparation for visitors, whether they were campers or international students visiting campus.  Events (a separate Physical Plant department) moved in all of the many desks, chairs, tables, mattresses and bed frames into each and every room. It takes a large team working in full cooperation just to maintain a single dormitory, let alone an entire campus.

Physical Plant employees are full members of the University community. They work, eat, pray, worship and live alongside students, faculty and administrators. Most students will only attend the University for four years, with the occasional student taking a fifth year to complete a degree. Most Physical Plant workers have worked for well over four years – I even worked with a couple of individuals, each with over 25 years of labor at UP. Five years before I was born they both began working at the University of Portland, and they will continue to do so even after I graduate from the very same institution. As students graduate with celebration, transitioning into the next phases of their lives, workers at the Physical Plant transition from the workload of the school year to an increased summer workload.

All (legal) work is honorable because it is necessary to sustain the functional society we currently enjoy. We should respect the work of Physical Plant, and of all labor-intensive careers because they, just like doctors, lawyers, or professors, secure the quality of life that we all enjoy, and often at much lower levels of socioeconomic compensation. We should respect individuals whose work is not complicated or intricate, but is still difficult and often monotonous. They perform the services to preserve the veneer of civilization that we all value so highly. We owe them our thanks.