Duke housekeepers are no longer allowed to accept gifts from students.
Housing, Dining and Residence Life instituted a new policy this Spring that bars housekeeping staff from removing any items left behind in student dormitories during or after move-out. The former policy allowed housekeepers to take items that students had designated for them—either by giving goods in person or leaving a note. This policy change addresses some concerns brought up by both students and housekeepers, said Rick Johnson, assistant vice president of housing and dining.
“It’s too hard to figure out who owns what,” Johnson said. “The University doesn’t want to be in a position to have to question everybody who’s carrying something away.”
In the past, housekeepers have obtained items such as alarm clocks, laptops, iPods, televisions, Xbox systems and games, Finley said. Sometimes students gave these items to housekeepers in person, but often staff members would take them from dormitory garbage receptacles.
Housekeeping staff members were informed of the change earlier this month, said James Finley, a housekeeper in Craven Quadrangle. Several housekeepers are unhappy with the change but are hesitant to speak up to University officials, he added.
“It’s taking away students’ rights to do what they want with their items,” he said. “[Sometimes students] want to say thank you for a service, for taking care of my dorm or keeping my bathroom clean.”
HDRL gave employees a document detailing the changes, which they were asked to sign to indicate they understood the new policy, Johnson said.
The policy, outlined in a document obtained by The Chronicle, was revised March 2012. It states that employees are not authorized to remove any items from campus, nor may they ask for or accept gifts of student property. Those who do not abide by the policy may be charged with theft and may face disciplinary action.
Items left in public spaces in residence halls will be donated to Duke Recycles to be given to the Move Out for Charity program or the Free Store, according to the policy document. HDRL staff will collect items left in student rooms and hold them for 30 days, pending inquiry from the resident, before donating them to Duke Recycles.
Michael Gibson, general manager of Local 77—the union that represents employees in housekeeping and facilities management—confirmed that the union is talking with management but declined to comment further.
Johnson said he was unable to comment on negotiations between the union and the University.
Over the past 10 years, University administrators have tried to create policies to clarify the process of housekeeping staff taking property left behind by students after move-out, Johnson said. A few years ago, students were asked to fill out consent notes at the Residence Life and Housing Services office that authorized housekeepers to take items.
But frequently students would forego this process and instead write housekeepers’ names on items they no longer wanted. This practice caused some housekeepers to question whether they were entitled to these items, Johnson noted.
These changes will protect housekeepers’ rights by preventing misunderstandings between students and housekeepers about the property, Johnson said. In the past, there have been student allegations that housekeepers were responsible for missing items from dorms.
“You don’t want to put the housekeeper in a position of [their character] being questioned, especially their honesty,” Johnson said.
The new policy also bars housekeepers from accepting any gifts from students, including small tokens of appreciation, Johnson said, to discourage employees from asking students for items or money.
Johnson noted that these new rules align with policies at most other American colleges and universities.
Housekeepers, however, remain unsure of the reasons behind the change.
Roosevelt Lovely, a housekeeper in Crowell Quadrangle, said that he thought the new move-out policy lacked transparency.
“They didn’t really tell us why they changed it,” Lovely said. “They just changed it.”