Special Edition: A Sit-Down with Long-Time West Hall Custodian Steven Kemp

I decided to interview my hall’s custodian, Steven Kemp, better known as Steve, for a couple reasons. Without fail, he always says a warm “hello” and “have a good day” and he also leaves a bowl of candy (always a pleasant surprise) for us before the holidays and finals. The second reason, connected to the first, is that I wanted to get to know him better: everyone else in my hall appeared to be closer with him than I was. A friend of mine, Keara, will sometimes mention conversations she had with Steve about his son, and all I can ever think back to is the short conversation I had with him about the weather. This interview was simply the perfect opportunity.

Steve has been working at Colgate as a custodian for about three years and four months. When I asked why he chose to work here, he responded that he had “heard good things about the school” and was treated very nicely, especially during the interview. Before he started working at West, he was a “floater,” assigned specifically to the fraternity houses. He noted that West is comparatively cleaner and easier to maintain. The most bizarre thing he has encountered while on duty is a jar of pickles on the fourth floor. He also hinted that we would most likely see more bizarre things over this Spring

Party Weekend.

His favorite part of the job is “the kids.” Although he struggles to completely do so, Steve tries to remember everyone’s name. He emphasized how he does his best to be friendly and make our lives easier. When I questioned whether he feels he has connected to students in West, over the years, he replied that some past residents still greet him in passing. He remembered very specific things about us, like how Keara’s middle name is her mom’s first name, how Isabel and Megan did laundry together on Tuesday in the fall semester, and how Patrick and John are roommates. In addition, he commended the ways in which first-years are polite, sympathetic and “still care.”

Over the years, Steve has seen many changes. For instance, the fifth floor was previously all-guys. He asked Residential Life to change the floor to all-girls, after the male residents would “use bottles for urine” due to the floor’s lack of a bathroom.

He also talked about how there will be two new dormitories built, so that all first-years can live on the hill. He once gave a ride to a student who didn’t know where the Hall of Presidents was, because she spent most time down the hill, and therefore did not know where everything was located. As to what we could do to make his life easier, he requested that we recycle: we get our “nickels back” the more we recycle, because he uses the change to buy us candy; he informed me that only “water and beer bottles are recyclable”: if the plastic cups we drink out of are dirty, they cannot be recycled.

I found myself laughing many times with Steve throughout the interview, especially with his take on the jar of pickles. I also really appreciated how much he was willing to share. He talked about his son, who was diagnosed with cancer and has had “five procedures over the last year and a half.” Thankfully, he is now cancer-free, but Steve imparted how there is “nothing worse than your child being sick.” Before, I only heard that Steve was great; I can now affirm this, and how he works so hard and genuinely cares for each of us. My roommate Alexandra listed Steve as one of her favorite people on this campus; I do not doubt that he is for most of us in West Hall.