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The Lives of Campus Custodians
Insights into Corporatization and Civic Disengagement in the Academy1359
This unique study uncovers the lives and working conditions of a group of individuals who are usually rendered invisible on college campuses, the custodians who daily clean the offices, residence halls, bathrooms and public spaces. In doing so it also reveals universities' equally invisible practices that frequently contradict their espoused values of inclusion and equity, and their profession that those on the margins are important members of the campus community. This vivid ethnography is the fruit of the year's fieldwork that Peter Magolda undertook at two universities. His purpose was to shine a light on a subculture that neither decision-makers nor campus community members know very much about, let alone understand the motivations and aspirations of those who perform this work; and to pose fundamental questions about the moral implications of the corporatization of higher education and its impact on its lowest paid and most vulnerable employees. Working alongside and learning about the lives of over thirty janitorial staff, Peter Magolda becomes privy to acts of courage, resilience, and inspiration, as well as witness to their work ethic, and to instances of intolerance, inequity, and injustices. We learn the stories of remarkable people, and about their daily concerns, their fears and contributions. Peter Magolda raises such questions as: Does the academy still believe wisdom is exclusive to particular professions or classes of people? Are universities really inclusive? Is addressing service workers' concerns part of the mission of higher education? If universities profess to value education, why make it difficult for those on the margins, such as custodians, to "get educated." The book concludes with the research participants' and the author's reflections about ways that colleges can improve the lives of those whose underpaid and unremarked labor is so essential to the smooth running of their campuses. Appendices provide information about the research methodology and methods, as well as a discussion of the influence of corporate managerialism on ethnographic research.
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"In this insightful volume, Magolda enters into the worlds of work of custodians who keep the spaces of learning and living clean, safe and welcoming for students, faculty and staff. Magolda's work is the first full-scale study of custodial work from the ground work that I am aware of. His bottom up documentation of custodians' realities and day-to-day experiences fills a very significance gap in the literature on higher education work. The organization of the book into three major themes -- fear, fatalism and family -- make much of what he learns applicable across other fields of work. Scholars and students of labor will find themselves in these pages, particularly in Magolda's insightful work on the "family" of the workplace. His concluding section allows for a re-interpretation of the consequences of corporate managerialism on civility and community in higher education. Finally, Magolda is generous in sharing his methodological decisions and approaches in appendixes that deepen the utility of the book for courses on labor, sociology, occupations, and higher education."-- (03/01/2016) "Magolda's goal was to create an 'interesting, accessible, credible, provocative, moderately disorienting, and educational' story. His ethnographic study of custodians at two higher education institutions has achieved that and more. In living their culture he came to appreciate the impact of the changing university on the 'least' of its members. Magolda uses this study of a university subculture to critique the trend toward corporatization in higher education. A critical read for everyone in the academy."-- (02/01/2016) "Magolda's work promises to be one of the most important studies of our time for higher education scholars have virtually ignored the lived experiences and contributions of members from the campus invisible custodial caste. Through the use of casual conversation, storytelling and case studies Magolda's writing is compelling, honest and personal. His research stands as witness that the academy espouses inclusivity but does not enact it. This book is a must read, a moral imperative, rooted in social justice."-- (02/01/2016) "Magolda combines more than a year of participant observation, ethnographic interviews, and literature review to give us a valuable glimpse into what daily life is like for custodians on two different college campuses. I especially enjoyed the many tell-it-like-it-is quotes from custodians that Magolda includes. The book is also eye-opening about 'community engagement, ' and offers new ways to think about it. I teach a service-learning class every spring and have helped lead the faculty advisory group for our Office for Community Engagement. Yet until reading The Lives of Campus Custodians, I had never thought about having our students engage with an important but largely invisible community: the low-wage staff working at our university. Toward the end of the book, Magolda offers a series of concrete suggestions for how to improve matters for both custodians and the university, directed at administrators, supervisors, students, faculty, and custodians themselves."-- (07/26/2017) "In The Lives of Campus Custodians: Insights Into Corporatization and Civic Disengagement in the Academy, Peter Magolda presents the stories of custodians on two college campuses in order to shed light on campus custodians, frequently marginalized collegiate subculture, and to present an alternative way for readers to think both about the corporatization of higher education and knowledge production. The Lives of Campus Custodians presents an alternative way of thinking about the ways higher education has become corporatized. Traditional literature on this topic addresses corporatization from the viewpoint of faculty, campus administrators, and others outside of higher education. This is the first text to examine this topic from the viewpoint of a campus subculture that experiences
Peter M. Magolda is Professor Emeritus in the Department of Educational Leadership at Miami University, USA. He has focused his scholarship on ethnographic studies of college students, critical issues in qualitative research, and program evaluation. He is co-author of It's All About Jesus: Faith as an Oppositional Collegiate Subculture with Kelsey Ebben, and has served on the editorial boards of Research in Higher Education and the Journal of Educational Research.