Michael W. Taylor does not stand out from his fellow coworkers from just a quick glance, but in conversation, his strong passion for work, the students, the faculty and the entire University of Richmond community is evident.
“I just love the interactions with the students, staff and just coming in on a daily [basis],” Taylor said. “You know, it’s important [students] are getting a higher education to better themselves in life and studying hard.”
Taylor, 57, is an auxiliary custodian who is responsible for the cleanliness of Tyler Haynes Commons. As with some other custodial positions, Taylor's job involves cleaning the entire building by himself. He cleans all three floors of the Commons, including the Office of Alumni and Career Services, The Pier and the University Bookstore, Taylor said.
Custodial and Environmental Services is made up of more than 100 dedicated staff members. Their mission is to provide a safe and clean environment for all students, faculty, staff and visitors, Cynthia Price, director of media and public relations, wrote in an email.
They accomplish this by focusing on safety, hospitality, quality and efficiency. They service all academic, administrative, athletic and residential buildings. They also provide additional service for special events, athletic games, summer camps, conferences and commencements, Price wrote.
Taylor, who has worked at UR for four years as of this February, also cleans up after basketball and football games and other large functions on campus such as graduation. Personally, though, Taylor genuinely cares for UR students and acknowledges their struggles, he said, even though he is not directly impacted by them.
“Especially around exams and finals, they have a lot of stress on their minds,” Taylor said. “I try to give them advice, you know. Go exercise, eat something, do something you enjoy, rest and then get back at it a little bit.”
Allison Steele, the manager of Custodial and Environmental Services, specifically mentioned this friendliness between her employees and the students.
“Our staff enjoy the opportunity to build relationships with our students during their time on campus,” Steele said. “Students show appreciation for our staff often, and we greatly appreciate that.”
Although Taylor has formed a connection with students at UR, he used to work for the cross-town rival. Born in Church Hill, Taylor spent 10 years at Virginia Commonwealth University working for a Chick-fil-A restaurant and cleaning student dorms on weekends, he said.
When he compared his time at both universities, Taylor's descriptions of UR illustrated his preference.
“Now, I’m working with professors,” Taylor said. “They treat you like staff. And even though you clean, they don’t look at you like a cleaning person. You have a job just like them. You are staff. [The university] does not put janitor or cleaner on the ID card. They put staff.”
Taylor also commented about the events and activities that UR organizes for school workers, such as appreciation days and recognition awards.
Taylor has not always cleaned the Commons. He originally cleaned Marsh Hall for eight months and then cleaned the Gottwald Center for the Sciences for three years. Taylor, regardless of his relationship with students, is honest about the mess they can often create — especially first-years.
“Sometimes I used to come in [to Marsh] on the weekends," Taylor said. "[The] trash was out, or students did not flush toilets and then it overflows. Sometimes exit signs are loose off the wall, or the dispensers in the bathroom are pulled off the wall. It’s tough when you come in.”
For Taylor, students' messiness and the subsequent cleanup is just routine work.
When Taylor is not working, he and his wife, Karen, enjoy going to movies and dinners together, Taylor said. He said he and Karen were also involved in activities with their local church.
Contact senior sports writer Jacob Taylor at firstname.lastname@example.org.