After President Trump published guidelines in mid-March to slow the spread of COVID-19, most of BJU’s faculty and staff began to work from home. However, a few departments could not work from home due to the nature of their work. On-campus staff have adapted to the unusual circumstances to best serve BJU.
While many work from home, Public Safety on-campus staff has continued its 24/7 protection of campus personnel and property. Chief Joe Mulnix said, “Just as in any community, (this protection) is both necessary and expected.”
The department is not operating much differently than usual. No students means fewer calls, but Public Safety still conducts ongoing patrols, gate management and building security. “Our campus environment is functioning much like an extended summer break,” Mulnix explained.
However, currently Public Safety is not employing as many students or faculty as they would during a normal summer. Otherwise, Mulnix said staffing has not decreased since “in recent years our department has been pared back to a minimally ‘effective’ level.”
To accommodate the staffing situation, some Public Safety staff have adjusted their weekly work hours. “One staff member now comes to work at 3:00 a.m.,” Mulnix said. “Another is adjusting his hours throughout the week to reflect early starts and later starts to his workday.”
With students gone, Public Safety has more time to accomplish lower-prioritized tasks, such as the tedious revision of the department’s Standard Operating Procedures Manual. But Mulnix and his staff miss the full campus. “We are in this line of work because we both care about and enjoy serving people,” he said.
Although perhaps less noticeable than Public Safety, the Custodial Services on-campus staff also did its part to care for the empty campus. Supervisor Jan Binns said, “The custodial group are the mice of the campus. If we clean correctly, you will never know that we are around.”
When classes were suspended, Binns had to plan tasks for the rest of the semester based on the number of employees that could stay. “Custodial hires a good many international GAs and workers, so we were not sure how many of them would … feel comfortable (staying to work),” Binns explained.
Right away she lost one temporary worker, three GAs and almost all of the student employees, leaving 24 workers to manage the whole campus. “At first the campus was not empty, so we were stretched pretty thin,” Binns said. “(But) because custodial workers are extremely loyal and hard workers, they were able to cover all areas in an appropriate manner.” Once students left and some buildings and restrooms were closed, custodial staff could better manage the campus.
After most people left campus, custodial disinfected the areas in continued use. Then they prepared dorms for possible summer camps, which were canceled in mid-May. Now custodial is operating with its normal summer staff, so they are conducting the usual detailed cleaning of the rest of the dorms and buildings.
Since the campus was empty earlier than expected, custodial was able to wax many of the floors before summer when the task is usually scheduled. “Several workers have worked very hard on making the floors look like mirrors,” Binns said.
“I have been with custodial for almost 12 years, (and) I am always amazed at the testimony, work ethic, loyalty that the custodial workers display,” Binns said. “I ask God to bless and keep them because I do not have enough words or money to reward them — they are priceless!”
Technology has enabled many people to work from home. But when technology malfunctions, they need help. One on-campus staff member from the Technology Resources Office has stayed on campus to run the office that serves faculty, staff, students and even retirees.
Although Technology Resources offers remote help, the office needed to stay open since many faculty teach with iPads, adapters, webcams, microphones and other devices borrowed from the room. Technology Resource Specialist Ed Flower said, “(Since my supervisor had to stay home because of a high-risk family member), they asked me to make sure I was in the office every day so that (faculty could continue to teach with these devices).”
Technology Resources was crucial to the transition to online learning this semester. The week after the transition was announced, the office was busy. “There were students that were trying to make sure they had the equipment and software that they needed,” Flower said. At that time, student employees were still there to help meet everyone’s needs.
After the student workers had left, the office was still busy. Faculty had questions and needed to learn how to use communication platforms like Zoom and Microsoft Teams. “A lot of people didn’t know what to do, so we were doing a lot of teaching,” Flower said.
When school resumed, faculty, staff and students often had malfunctioning software, so Flower and his supervisor solved many problems by phone, email or Teams. “After several weeks, (the workload) finally started to lighten a little bit,” Flower said, “but there for a while it was still pretty consistent and sometimes heavy.”
Although some people preferred to receive help in person, Flower helped many more via technology. This method presented challenges. Said Flower: “Sometimes, if you’re not able to see what the issue is when they’re explaining over the phone, it takes a lot longer because … their experience of technology (isn’t) always the same (as yours). You might ask them to tell you what they see on their screen, and what they may explain is different than … what you’ve seen before. … And so, it takes a lot longer … to fix problems on the phone.” He added, “However, if they were in Teams and they (could) share their screen, that helped immensely.”
Along with Mulnix and Binns, Flower eagerly anticipates the return of the BJU community.
See Also: Student Resources for Success