While you were basking under the summer sun, there was planting to be done at SLC—and weeding, mulching, raking, sweeping, digging, pruning and watering. Indoors, someone had to move beds, bureaus, desks and chairs in some 600 College bedrooms, bathrooms and kitchens; the rooms needed to be cleaned, spackled and painted before the furniture was put back. When the College community returned in September, the campus looked as if nothing had changed. But so much had, and much of it was done by Sarah Lawrence students.
Each summer four dozen students work on campus, in such places as the Campbell Sports Center, the Esther Raushenbush Library and many campus offices. But no one dresses down or works up a sweat like the painters and gardeners, 13 students (and one staff daughter this year) who trade the school year program of intellectual rigor for 9-to-5 days of physical exertion.
“The College is very lucky to have students willing to work day in and day out to enhance the campus, our community,” said Maureen Gallagher, associate director of operations and facilities. “They’re making their own home more beautiful.” It was students, in fact, she noted, who pro posed in the early 90s that they take on summer labors.
Ani Adishian ’95, whose company, Flora Horticultural Services, implements her landscape designs for the College and handles bigger tasks like mowing, says her nine-person student crew puts thousands of plants in the ground every summer and spreads about 80 cubic yards of mulch. "They maintain all the flower and shrub beds," Adishian said. "It’s a huge job. I don’t think people realize that. Even when students apply for the job, they don’t realize it."
Gardening students said the chance to work outdoors, and to live on campus and save money, are factors that drew them to apply.
Rebecca Waisanen ’04, who used her free time this summer for writing and studying for the Law School Admissions Test (LSAT), said, “I grew up on a farm in Michigan, and I’ve always been interested in horticulture.” Asked what she learned during the summer, she replied, “I know I’ll have a much better garden at my house.”
With the change in work from the school year comes a change in schedule, too. Summer work is more ordered and routine, said Tudor Benga ’04, and “when you leave the job, you leave with no worries.” “In summer you get up earlier, at a set time, and work all day,” agreed painter Kate Berenson, who graduates in December. “You’ve gone from aristocracy to proletariat.”
Summer work brings together people who might not have known each other beforehand. Operations and facilities staff member and paint crew chief Scott Brewster and students Harold Pierce ’04 and Josh Exoo ’04, for example, gained the invaluable opportunity to compare their Christopher Walken imitations.
“I always hire a bunch of freshmen, hoping I’ll get them for two or three summers,” said Brewster. “It’s an enjoyable job for me. It goes to show that this institution brings in a great group of people. I always get good people.”