After a hiatus brought on by Covid-19, Dorm Crew is finally back! Well, sort of. In its new, post-Covid iteration, instead of hiring students to clean dorm bathrooms as it has for nearly 70 years, Dorm Crew will now hire students to do audiovisual work for houses and classrooms under the Education Support Services framework. We’re not quite sure what to call it now — Audiovisual Crew just doesn’t have the same ring to it.
While it is hard to imagine a Dorm Crew outside of cleaning dorm bathrooms, Dorm Crew has always been more than just a service that employs students to clean bathrooms. For what some may consider a service that emphasized economic inequalities at Harvard by hiring students to perform custodial work for their peers, students that actually participated in Dorm Crew did not see it as such. The Crimson reported an email from Guillaume Bouchard ’23- ’24, in which they wrote that “I met there some of the most down-to-earth, genuine people I’ve known in my time at Harvard.” Rather than feeling exploited, former Dorm Crew employees characterized their experiences with Dorm Crew as joining a community of hardworking and like-minded peers that helped start their semesters on a high note.
Indeed, while people, such as members of this Editorial Board in the past, have editorialized Dorm Crew to be a problematic organization that takes advantage of pre-existing inequalities, the students that are being “exploited” have spoken only of the contrary. Critics of Dorm Crew may come from a genuine place of concern for lower-income students performing what they perceive as degrading labor. To this, we want to make clear that manual labor is never inherently demeaning or lesser than the middle-management jobs that many Harvard students will go on to have, or the academic work that we constantly engage in at this College. Manual laborers such as custodians deserve respect — respect for the values that their work contributes and the respect of not being subjected to classist and elitist preconceived notions of worth that seek to victimize them.
Precisely because Dorm Crew has been so great in its original form, we are slightly concerned about its new form. For one, we are worried about the lesser number of students Dorm Crew (the AV Crew?) will now be able to hire in comparison to previous numbers of more than 800 students.
The work that Dorm Crew and workers at Harvard contribute is meaningful and essential to our community and campus, without which we would suffer. For this, we are very thankful. We also maintain that students should take charge in maintaining the cleanliness of their own spaces on campus as well, especially now that Dorm Crew no longer offers dorm cleaning services. After all, we all share this campus and its residential spaces. Students should do this on their own, but houses should consider launching their own programs like Dorm Crew. As former Dorm Crew employees can attest, working together to perform manual tasks can build and strengthen communities that go beyond lip service — something that houses desperately need after the social isolation brought on by Covid-19.
This staff editorial solely represents the majority view of The Crimson Editorial Board. It is the product of discussions at regular Editorial Board meetings. In order to ensure the impartiality of our journalism, Crimson editors who choose to opine and vote at these meetings are not involved in the reporting of articles on similar topics.
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