One of the defining characteristics for life is that it takes in energy, and then produces waste. Put more simply, everybody poops. And so, usually during the course of a typical student’s day at Seattle Central Community College, they have to use the restroom.
Since the Edison building was reconstituted as Seattle’s first Community College in 1966, over 500,000 students have attended SCCC. That is a considerable amount of traffic for our poor bathrooms to be putting up with for the past 48 years. And unfortunately, it shows.
From what I have observed, overheard in the halls, and been told directly, the bathrooms are a bit of a joke to many students. It’s become a sarcastic comment that everyone can chuckle at, because it’s a mutual understanding of how undesirable they can be. Former student Will Jennings is one of the many who have never been very fond of having to use the restrooms at SCCC. “Just having all the stalls functional would be nice, and no mysterious liquid trailing into my stall please.” But some restrooms are much worse than others.
It is pretty safe to say that the first floor restrooms next to the main elevators are by far the most off-putting. They are the two restrooms that receive the most foot traffic, from students and the general public, because they are the most accessible from the street. It is the only ladies’ room I’ve come across in the school that doesn’t have a mirror, and the stall doors are all quite ominous (though surprisingly all of the door locks are still functioning). I mean, I know that the building is old, and with time everything degenerates, but what factors are keeping us in the way of improving our restrooms?
The thing is, all of the bathrooms are maintained, anyone can go in and see the laminated schedules that the custodians use to make sure they have checked and cleaned everything on a regular basis. But most of the restrooms are only maintained to the point where they stay the same, instead of improving over time. Chuck Davis, Director of Facilities at SCCC, says that the funding for the school comes primarily from the State. And of that money, “$2,881,142.00 was set aside to support operational expenses for the following Facilities departments: Custodial, Grounds, Hazardous Waste, Mail, Maintenance, Recycling etc.”. Spread throughout at least six departments, that money can disappear quickly.
Greg Bagdasaryan, the Custodial Supervisor, would ideally like to see all of the bathrooms remodeled, “And after that was done, to figure out a way to keep all those bathrooms secure and limited, as much as possible, in use only to the staff, faculty, students and potential students of the college”. It sounds like an impossible feat, but according to Mr. Davis, “Most of the first floor restrooms are scheduled for complete renovation this year and others are listed as a high priority for funding…”.
Though there is plenty of work ahead, SCCC has taken some steps to improve the environment of select restrooms. Efforts include the purchase of scented urinal cakes for the urinals, as well as the addition of a fresh coat of paint in certain areas, such as in the photo of the South wing first floor men’s bathroom, pictured below.
The school employes 24 full-time and 14 part-time custodians. Chuck Davis and his coworkers want to be able to create a healthy environment in the school, and hope to be able to renovate the restrooms, as well as do small aesthetic things like repainting hallways, and when the time and money allows it, complete more specific projects. Mr. Davis also has formed the Facilities Operation & Management Advisory Committee (FOMAC) to help regulate where the custodial department’s money should be used in order to the the most bang for their buck every year. The committee is made up of a mixture of faculty, staff, and students, and they meet monthly to provide feedback on operational and management issues.
I also asked staff members about any rules that may hinder students from raising supplementary money to go towards campus improvements (like if some people wanted to do a bake sale to replace a broken toilet). It seems that apart from school club regulations, there is nothing saying that students couldn’t raise money to help improve our school at a faster pace than the annual budget currently allows. That’s definitely something to think about if anyone here has just about had it with having to play the game of “what is that unidentified pool of liquid on the floor?”, or “I wonder which stall door has a working lock on it?”.
Photos by: Joey Wieser