Joining Forces: The Blending of Custodial and Maintenance Programs

At your student union or center, your custodial and maintenance team plays a vital role in keeping they physical environment kempt and clean. As an essential part of maintaining a successful operation plan, members of these teams are integral to what first impressions are like when guests arrive, and to what the day-to-day experiences are like for the primary users, students. So what might be the ramifications related to an institution making a structural change that moves custodial and maintenance service responsibilities from the facility to the existing campus-wide facilities program?

When Florida State University decided it would conduct just such a blending program, Matt Watson, associate director for the Oglesby Union there, looked to ACUI’s Communities in search of similar experiences and discussions on campuses that led to special memorandums of understanding or new several level agreements that can redefine responsibilities, services received, and costs.

“Campus partnerships and memorandums of understanding are certainly part of the union’s operating and financial model, but the union does not enter into enterprise-level contracts on behalf of the university,” Watson said. “For example, the union houses several food and retail locations that are operated by vendors managed through the university’s Office of Business Services. Additionally, we internally purchase many of the services we need through university units such as information technology services, parking and transportation, and others.”

Eve Esch, executive director of student centers at the University of Houston, shared examples of service level agreements the campus unions have with Houston’s Facilities Services that s that “cover custodial, maintenance and a few other things like pest control, elevator service, waste removal, grounds.”

These agreements should outline the services that are to be provided, along with a schedule of when and how often; a review schedule to look at the quality of service; and cost estimates for the various service categories that can include groundskeeping, elevator maintenance, fire extinguisher inspections, and much more. 

Whether to remove redundancies in service, increase scales of efficiency, or streamline operations, these agreements can connect student unions with their institutions in a way that can better designate roles and responsibilities of crossover facilities. At Oglesby Union, Watson is seeing firsthand the impact of this blending of teams.

“Staff members who were once part of the union’s organizational chart are now part of the central facilities team,” Watson said. “The blending initiative is still underway and, while some administrative pieces have been put into motion, not all of the operational elements have been completely worked out. Their duties and work locations remain largely the same for now, however, we anticipate there will be changes to position descriptions in the coming months.”

This change has made the Oglesby Union “a customer of FSU Facilities,” and the union’s “former employees continue to care for the union’s buildings and grounds with different supervision,” Watson said. 

“When this initiative was brought forward to blend the union, housing, and central facilities teams at Florida State, the stated goals were to deliver custodial and maintenance services seamlessly across campus, create cost savings for the university, improve service and response time, and to offer additional promotion and job opportunities to custodial and maintenance personnel.”


  • Steve Chaplin

    Steve Chaplin is managing editor of ACUI’s The Bulletin and manager of the ACUI College Union and Student Activities (CUSA) Evaluation Program. A former newspaper writer, editor, and manager, he has volunteered as a student mentor as a member of the National Association of Science Writers, and received awards for his writing and reporting from the Council for the Advancement and Support of Education, the Kentucky Education Association, and the Kentucky Press Association.

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