Throwback Jack: When students had it maid

November 17, 2011

As CHARMS surveys and roommate agreements attest, a major factor in creating harmonious living arrangements is a mutually agreeable cleaning regimen. Nowadays, who cleans what and when is an issue that students must work out among themselves, but for Hoyas of the 1950s and ‘60s, roommates never needed to quarrel over cleaning duties. They had maids. And when the maids stopped coming, they rallied together and quarreled with University administrators.
According to a 1966 letter to the editor in The Hoya, maid service was included in student housing fees (which, at $136 per month, were purportedly the second highest on the East coast).  According to the letter, the maids were expected to clean each individual dorm room and change the bed linen once a week. This student complained that her room was only being cleaned once every three weeks, while the housemaster, the equivalent of an RA, had his room cleaned and his bed made every day, even though he paid no rent.
In a 1967 Hoya article, the administration responded to student demands for an explanation on the cut back in service. According to Fr. Thomas Fitzgerald, academic vice president, the issue was a financial one. The University was attempting to reduce costs in order to raise the wages of the non-academic staff based on recommendations from a firm that had looked over the University’s pay scales for the previous year. According to another 1967 article in The Hoya, minimum wage had increased, forcing the University to pay each of the 73 members of the cleaning staff at least $1.60 an hour.
The New South House Council unanimously signed a petition that year which included the statement that they had not been notified about whether housing fees would be raised for next year. According to a Hoya article, Fr. Fitzgerald said he was “astonished” by this, since an announcement had been posted stating that fees would not increase. He warned the student body that “you can hinder our efforts to discover where economies can be made most reasonably … if you demand, before we are in the position to do so, that we spell out how the dorms are going to be run next year.”
In 1973, the University made the final switch to a system in which “instead of cleaning each room and changing linen in all the male dorms, the maids [would] clean bathrooms, showers, and common areas.” By that time, the University had gone co-ed, and maids have never been responsible for cleaning rooms in any of the women’s dorms (primarily located in Darnall and St. Mary’s). Apparently, male students had been blaming maids for the disappearance of their belongings, since the residence life administrator who was interviewed for the article had to say that the change in housekeeping duties was not connected to these unproven accusations.
In a 1974 article in The Hoya, a student complained that “the principal tasks of the maids and janitors are to show total inconsideration towards the students by noisily waking them up in the morning and then by loafing for the remainder of the day on salaries we are supporting with our room rates.”
Long after full maid service had ceased, complaints about cleaning inadequacies persisted. According to a 1979 article in The Hoya, two residents of the fifth floor of Copley filed a law suit against Georgetown for failing to clean the bathrooms, which was part of the “implied contract.”
Next time your parents call you spoiled, lazy, or indecisive, simply look to these shining examples from Hoya history. You can say that you merely inherited those traits from previous generations.

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