Launch into Leadership

Quickies, catcalls and brawls

“We’re really not meant to be seen or heard,” an anonymous custodian said.

They work behind the scenes to ensure that Georgia State’s facilities are maintained and clean, yet many don’t know who the university custodians are—but they know us.

This is their story.

SHANNON

Shannon is from St. Louis, Missouri and has worked at Georgia State for 14 years, upkeeping Aderhold Learning Center’s second floor.

Outside of work, Shannon dedicates her time to her son and church.

“I have a 20-year-old son that runs me ragged. He gets most of my time. The two days I’m off I go to church. I pray a lot. [It’s a struggle] getting by day by day. I’m really struggling with financial problems right now, but I manage it by prayer and giving back to others. That’s where my blessings come from,” Shannon said.

During Shannon’s 14 years, she has remembered violence and fights between students more than anything.

Illustration by Dao Nguyen | The Signal

“The fight was about 2010 on Christmas break. I was in the restroom cleaning like I always do and I look outside and they was on this back hallway right here,” Shannon said.

She pointed to the Aderhold’s north entrance.

“It was two girls duking it up. They were like popcorn,” Shannon said.

Shannon has been amused by fights, but she’s also witnessed something traumatic.

“I was here when a guy jumped out the window. He went up [on the balcony] and I think he had a gun on him and he put it in the trash can. And when the guards seen it and came back and told the guy, he jumped,” Shannon said.

Shannon was performing her normal routine during the incident.

“I looked out the corner of my eye and was going into 229, and when I came back out I thought it was a big bird when it came down. I went out there and saw a man on the ground,” Shannon said.

RICKY

Ricky, an Atlanta native, maintains the library’s third floor.

After graduating from Jobs Corp, he began working at Georgia State in 1984 and worked for the university intermittently over the next 30 years until he finally returned in 2014.

Illustration by Dao Nguyen | The Signal

“What I learned was care, and the main thing is learning how to maintain such a structure,” Ricky said. “Once I learned all that, there wasn’t anything else I wanted to know.”

Outside of work, he’s mostly at home as he values his time with his wife and other family members.

“In the ‘80s, Georgia State was still fairly young, and we would see wild out sex acts in the library, the student center, wherever they felt like it at any time,” Ricky said. “We would run across somebody robbing somebody.”

He said his presence didn’t affect the students’ behavior.

“They’ll never change. Unless you might say something and then they’ll think he ain’t there anymore and they just carry on,” Ricky said.

Despite consistent student behavior, Ricky noted a visible change since the ‘80s.

“[Students now] are lazy. Back then students cared. They gave an effort,” Ricky said.

Ricky said that the university’s rapid growth has contributed to the students’ attitude.

“The university has grown. In 1984, there were [fewer] students. Now, it’s not just a handful,” Ricky said.

Despite Ricky’s observations, he said he has faith in students.

“I wouldn’t want [students] to give up. Because giving up isn’t nobody’s plan,” Ricky said. “Kids these days don’t want to be saved. They want to try and work things out themselves, but the thing about that is your always going to need some help. I don’t care who you are or what you do. You’re going to need some help.”

And he said he would offer his support to students in need.

“If I can help them with what they’re grieving about then I’ll give them a hand. I’ll help them as much as I can. And the main thing I’d tell them: ‘Get up off the ground, man. Ain’t nothing down there.’”

Illustration by Dao Nguyen | The Signal

ANONYMOUS

One custodian, who requested anonymity, has been at Georgia State for 10 years.

“I love what I do and I can further my education while I’m doing it. Right now, I’m doing building and maintenance. I’m [also] working in accounting,” the custodian said.

Georgia State offers the Employee Tuition Assistance Program, allowing employees up to $5,250 annually in educational assistance benefits.

Another custodian, also requesting anonymity, acknowledged Georgia State students’ stress.

“Students are under a lot of pressure, so we have to understand the things that they go through. You don’t know what type of pressure—parents, whatever they’re putting on them,” the anonymous custodian said. “We have students that really take it to heart if they don’t pass a class. Students will kill themselves.”

The custodian said that the reason people don’t hear about the suicide issue on campus is because Georgia State has to protect its reputation.

“[Georgia State] cannot have bad news. Bad news is no good news,” the anonymous custodian said.

Illustration by Dao Nguyen | The Signal

The source also said that students get harassed on the streets of Atlanta, adding to the stress already caused by classes.

“When students get off MARTA you got people saying, ‘Hey baby, how you doing?’ They don’t see a college student, they see a female,” the anonymous custodian said. “They don’t even know what [students] got going on. So if [students] seem a little edgy, I don’t blame them.”

When adolescents experience high stress, they often lash out at their surroundings—and sometimes, custodians are on the receiving end of that.

“I’ve had incidents with students here. [Some students] yell, ‘I’ve got to use the bathroom.’ Some students will get demanding like that while you’re trying to clean. If I don’t [clean the restroom] everybody in here’s getting sick. They don’t think of that, they just think, ‘I’ve paid my tuition,’” the anonymous custodian said.

Considering all of this, the custodian said their view of students still hasn’t changed.

“That’s just a small thing. That doesn’t mean [students] are just bad,” the anonymous custodian said.

“We think younger students are lost, but the students are out [here] doing something. They aren’t lost. They aren’t lost at all.”

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