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How do they really feel about us?

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Tulane University

culture

How do they really feel about us?

Interviews with Tulane staff yield surprising results

Zoe Barr

10.6.17

Over move-in weekend, my friend’s father sat down with a woman working in the LBC. Curious as to the sort of student body his daughter would encounter at Tulane, he asked her: “what’s one word you would use to describe Tulane students?” She answered; “spoiled.” When I heard this story, I was angry. I didn’t want to belong to a student body with such a reputation. But I realized, even with this awareness and desire to bridge the gap between who I want to be and this negative image of Tulane students, I had never taken substantial time out of my days to meet and talk with any of the people who served me at Bruff, cleaned my bathrooms, or patrolled my campus in order to keep me safe. Sure, I engaged in niceties with various staff here and there, I always made an effort to be polite. And yet, these superficial interactions had not been enough for me to develop any real relationship with the people ensuring my Tulane experience is be a comfortable one.

Hoping to uncover more of the true opinions of Tulane employees, I decided to interview various support staff members. Did they all see us as spoiled? And if so, could I give them some sort of platform to critique us, to comment on their campus experience? I wanted to tell their stories and to elevate their roles as servers, too easily taken for granted, to what they truly are: the people upon whom this institution depends.
First I interviewed Lynell, a cashier in the LBC. Lynell told me about her son at LSU and when I asked her what she appreciated in life, she said “Being courteous. And polite. You know? Because you don’t get that from people. And I always think about my son at school, and I say, ‘son, you have to be very polite to people.’ And that’s why I try to be polite, because I want it back.” Lynell described Tulane students as respectable and said if she could give a message to the student body it would be to always be careful when it comes to going out.




Next, I ventured to Bruff and interviewed Letasha, who shared her passion for working at Tulane and how she feels the students bring so much light to Bruff. “Stay focused,” she answered when I asked for a piece of advice for Tulane students. “Be consistent, show up, keep up the hard work.”

I spoke with Oz, a kind man with a big smile and one of Bruff's kitchen supervisors. Oz deeply cares about everyone he feeds and hopes to make people smile. He recognizes how hard college can be and tries to make people feel comfortable when they’re in Bruff. He spoke of his admiration for Tulane students as they navigate the balancing act that is college life. Oz shared with me that the Tulane student body has helped him make it through some hard times in life and that he hopes he can be there for us when we feel alone. When I asked for a message to Tulane students, he said this: “Whatever your job, your future plans [are,] don’t do it for the money. Do it because you love it and the money will come.”




Kimmy, a server in Bruff, was passionate about accomplishing her future plans to start her own business. She advised us to “keep working toward [our] goals. Keep working hard, never give up, even after school is over.”




Finally, I spoke with an LBC employee who wishes to remain anonymous. When I asked them one word they would use to describe Tulane students, they paused, then answered, “ book-smart, but that’s about it. A lot of them come from rich families and are spoiled,” they continued. “I understand them, but it bothers me when they steal when they don’t have to.”

What I found, much to my surprise given the cynical perspective I set out with, was that almost every person I interviewed spoke of their genuine admiration and care for the students of Tulane, shattering the ideas I had about their negative perceptions of us, and showing me that we’re so much less alone on this campus than we may believe. There are people here to support us and wish to see us succeed if we take the time to connect with them.

Let’s remember that our time here is a privilege; we have the opportunity to spend four years studying and developing our interests in order to become educated professionals who can direct our world for the better. To take full advantage of our situation, we mustn’t lose sight of all the people who make life possible at Tulane. Each interaction we have with them matters. If we can see Tulane employees in their multidimensionality, avoiding the automated default that is so easy to make habitual, we open up a network of support and knowledge to ourselves. Personally, I’m not comfortable contributing to the stereotype that Tulane students are spoiled or apathetic towards this city and it’s people . Our four years here will end, but for the people who work on our campus, this will still be their home. So next time you eat at Bruff, consider introducing yourself to the person making your omelet or slicing your pizza. Thank them for their passion and care, and think about how you can cycle the care and passion they show us back into our city.