University bathrooms becoming a health issue

There were signs, petitions and protests, newspaper articles and opinion columns all fighting for one thing- a living wage and improved medical benefits for the UNICCO workers at the university.

The student-lead initiatives succeeded. But now, it seems UNICCO is getting paid more to do less.

To start with, I’ll go back to last week in Hecht when over 24 hours passed without anyone refilling the toilet paper in any of the stalls on my floor. My RA was informed of the situation. Two days later, as I was sitting in a classroom in Merrick, I noticed that the trash can was overflowing onto the floor. Candy wrappers, paper, and gum were everywhere. Then my eyes wandered to the ants that were swarming all over the trash and surrounding areas, crawling up the walls, the floor, and the trash can. The food had started to grow mold. That’s nasty.

Even worse, that particular classroom isn’t used by more than 20 or 30 people a day, if that. How long had the trash not been emptied?

Despite the classrooms and residence halls, an even greater lack of maintenance exists in the UC, particularly during the weekends. I’ve worked in the UC for over a year and have never had people complain as much about the lack of toilet paper, soap, and cleanliness in the bathrooms as I have since this semester began. Sometimes I have to take a 15-minute break from work and run across campus to another bathroom for fear of slipping on urine or passing out from the smell in the bathrooms.

Recently, there have been days that I’ve worked from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. and not seen a single UNICCO worker. But this weekend after an entire day of referring people to the convenience store or Sbarro’s for toilet paper, I noticed two UNICCO workers by the pool area standing and talking, oblivious to the fact that the trash needed to be emptied, that the bathrooms smelled like a sewer and were out of toilet paper and soap, and that all of the ants in Miami were working very hard to take care of the overflowing trash bins all over campus that they had neglected to empty.

Now don’t get me wrong, most of the UNICCO workers are hardworking, nice people who are very friendly and sociable with students, faculty, employees, and everyone else on campus. And I want to make perfectly clear that I believe it is extremely unfair that the lack of work by some reflects negatively on all. But something needs to be done because overflowing trash contents, feces and urine-ridden bathrooms, lack of toilet paper and liquid soap, and low levels of maintenance translates into an issue of public health.

Leigha Taber is a junior majoring in psychology.