'We do our best': A behind-the-scenes look at everything UT custodians do to keep campus clean

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Photo Credit: Mckenzie Bentley | Daily Texan Staff

Frank Zambrano starts his day at 5:30 a.m. by unlocking the 183 campus buildings Custodial Services maintains. He has worked at UT since 1992 and is one of the 448 employees that help keep campus clean.

There are 14.8 million square feet maintained by Custodial Services, and each employee is responsible for 33,143 square feet, according to the Facilities Services website. Zambrano said while there is a lot of space, it is their duty to keep it clean.

“Yeah, it is a big area we have, but we do our best,” Zambrano said. “There are a lot of reasons (that motivate) me — ­­(from) my family, to coming to work and enjoy the other people here.” 

The earliest shifts start at 5:30 a.m. and the latest end at 2 a.m., so there are custodians maintaining campus more than 20 hours every day. Zambrano said he works the morning shift to go to his second job in the afternoon. 

“They give me time to do things (after work) and have a part-time (job),” Zambrano said. “It’s a real nice place and good work at the University of Texas. I really enjoy to be here and help.” 

Sally Moore, associate director of Custodial Services, has worked at UT since she was 19, and 40 years later, she is still trying to inspire change around campus. 

 

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“I enjoy working in the University environment because the diversity of it is probably far greater than you’d get in any other job,” Moore said. “I’ve also enjoyed bringing in improvement into the workplace and making jobs easier and better for all of our employees.”

One change Moore has pushed for since she was promoted to associate director is increasing wages. In 2017, the custodian starting wage was increased from $11 to $13 per hour. Moore said they are still working for better wages.

“That helped a little bit, but we would like to raise the pay again to keep up with a living wage and help our retention and be able to attract applicants more easily,” Moore said. “But we just don’t have that money figured out quite yet.”

Zambrano said most students are quiet and do not bother the custodians, but economics sophomore Angela Kwak said their hard work does not go unnoticed.

“Students and professors manage their own spaces, but outside of that, somebody has to do the job of the cleaning and the organizing,” Kwak said. “So (their job) is important to the function of the University.”

After spending almost four decades at UT, Moore said she has learned to be patient, and she is thankful for the dedication from the people she works with.

“I am proud of them, and they do hard work without a whole lot of thanks sometimes,” Moore said. “We try to make sure that they know we appreciate them.”

UT has become a second home for Zambrano, and he said he is grateful for the job he has.

“You expect to work here all your life until you retire,” Zambrano said. “Especially when you work in a place like this, you really enjoy and get up and thank God for another day.”