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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Maintaining Brandeis’ campus harder than it looks

Published: August 31, 2012
Section: Opinions

Coming from a bustling, Minnesota farming town, I didn’t have many options as far as a summer job. My only choices included working on a friend’s farm, manning a gas station counter or working for the city. I chose the most difficult of the three options: I spent 40 hours a week doing odd jobs for the parks and recreation department. I really enjoyed parts of my job. I got to handle a lot of large machinery and drive a lot of big trucks. At one point I found myself using a saw that came with a warning from my boss, “If you mess this up, you may lose a hand.”

I was recruited to take down trees that had been planted in the wrong place, cut down bushes of buckthorn that were sprawling over community gardens, and even help out with a controlled burn on a part of a prairie. Those were the exciting parts. The duller and more mundane aspects of my job involved the monotonous trimming of hedges and grass during long days in the hottest July on record.

Undoubtedly I learned a lot about nature and the environment, but it was my exposure to the people that made a greater impact. If you’ve ever wondered why you couldn’t find a job, you can blame it on the 70-year-old guys with whom I worked. There was one retirement party during the time I was working there, and it was for a stout Irishman who had turned 81 that year.

At the end of the workday, all of the old men and young hunters would grab a Mountain Dew from the vending machine, sit down on a plastic chair and discuss as many brands of beer as they could. They compared; they Venn diagrammed; they argued; and sometimes harsh words were exchanged. In the end, they agreed that beer was the greatest thing ever invented by man, afterward going their separate ways.

So maybe it wasn’t a four-month vacation in the Hamptons. And maybe my tan lines can be seen from space. But even through all of the hot days and early mornings, I learned a lot about trees. I learned how the government works, how to care for newly planted flowers, and how to use a wood chipper and a handsaw like a pro.

My job changed the way I think about landscaping. Just maintaining the few parts of the city belonging to the parks department was hard enough, let alone the entire Brandeis campus.

The Brandeis Office of Facilities Services employs more than 150 people who are responsible for the “operation and maintenance of all university-owned buildings and grounds,” according to the university website.

To maintain a university campus, especially one like Brandeis, which is covered in flower beds, beautiful trees and sprawling lawns, would take many more hours than I could even imagine. And while to many students, our campus may feel like it’s a bit small, it boasts 100 buildings spread across 235 acres. The maintenance that this campus requires is mind-boggling, and the Facilities Services staff deserves our respect and admiration. I have only spotted landscapers a few times since I arrived at Brandeis, working mainly near the SCC and Sherman. I have to give them a hand: the campus looks fantastic.

Through my experience this summer I learned to appreciate the work that goes into the beauty on campus, the beauty that students tend to take for granted. The next time I see a groundskeeper, I will be sure to say thank you for all that is done to keep Brandeis’ campus beautiful.