Before sunrise on the morning of Oct. 13, 12 chalk messages were written on the pavement throughout campus at various locations such as the Johnson Student Center, the Marketplace and multiple student dorms. Each message contained the same four words: “Show Gratitude to Facilities.”
The student responsible for the messages, Micol Garinkol (sophomore), wrote them to inspire other Occidental students to be more aware of the contributions of Facilities Management. She initially declined to share her identity because she wanted the community to be focused on the messages themselves rather than from where they came.
“Many members of the facilities staff have been supporting the Occidental community for over a decade,” Garinkol said via email. “In my opinion, a campus-wide culture that supports those who spend long hours and years improving our campus is within all of our interests.”
Assistant Director of Maintenance Mario Bondilla agreed that students and Facilities staff generally see each other positively. However, in his experience, most student interactions with Facilities tend to be complaints in response to the department’s failures. Although he is very appreciative of constructive feedback, he loved how the chalk messages focused on the challenging yet routine contributions of the Facilities staff.
“For the most part, we only get a call when we don’t pick up the trash in a specific area,” Bondilla said. “We never hear ‘thank you for picking up the trash!’”
Bondilla found the chalk messages to be especially encouraging in light of the administration’s recent collaboration with Facilities as part of the senior leadership team’s inaugural Work Around the College events. President Jonathan Veitch, Dean of the College Kerry Thompson and other administrators worked three half-days with various Facilities staff — one with cleaning services in July, another with the grounds crew in August, and a third with Campus Dining in October. Chief of Administrative Affairs Marsha Schnirring suggested the idea as a way to improve knowledge of and appreciation for the work of Facilities Management as well as to strengthen community bonds.
“We value and appreciate the long hours, multiple skills and hard work needed to keep the college’s basic infrastructure running,” Schnirring said.
Rogelio Navarro, grounds crew member of eight years and current Occidental parent, appreciated seeing the messages. Even though he did not notice any direct change from the chalk messages, he was grateful for their intent. Navarro first saw one of the messages when he was starting his shift on Oct. 17. The message immediately made him feel supported — being thanked for one project, he explained, provides important moral support for the next project.
“Inside you feel good that you did something as a worker here,” Navarro said. “You just feel good.”
Tom Polansky, director of Facilities, has never seen any similar spontaneous message in his three and a half years at Occidental. Even though he could not recall a single time when Facilities staff reported an exceptionally rude student, he believes the staff’s hard work is often unrecognized.
“The beautiful thing about [the chalk messages] is that it’s so organic and unexpected,” Polansky said. “This just felt really authentic.”
Polansky found that the messages were very energizing for his department — he reported that many within the Facilities management staff became noticeably more supportive of each other and that at least five different administrators thanked the department as a whole.
He was also gratified to see student action supporting the school’s commitment to fostering responsible citizenship.
“It’s great to see a concrete example of [the school’s mission],” Polanksy said.