GUEST ROOM | Essential employee?

“Essential employee.” As I stand here on campus with my rake in hand, these words come to mind: What am I doing? It’s not snow season, it’s not mowing season. Everyone around us is going home and being offered alternative ways of working while we’re here preparing for a start that might not happen, a reunion week that might be cancelled.

If we are so essential, why does it also seem that we are replaceable? If our health and safety is at risk, why do we accept this risk for spring cleaning tasks? Some of us feel differently. Some are less affected than others. Those of us who are very worried are afraid of the risks we take. Working alongside people who do not take extra precautions is potentially dangerous.

Cornell has taken steps to protect students, faculty, professors and sports fans, but has left the rest of us here to carry on as usual, as if we don’t have the same burdens as others. We also have children at home without daycare. We too are afraid of getting sick and passing it on to our loved ones. Cornell could shut down campus and send us home, pay those who are okay with extra overtime to be available for emergencies.

Send us the message that our lives have value. Cornell can be part of the solution in these strange times or continue to contribute to the problem.

On March 22, Cornell’s grounds department was notified that they were not to report to work on Monday but instead were to be available for emergencies. These arrangements will be reassessed weekly. The grounds department will be paid and have the ability to perform remote work tasks.

Gretchen Kirchgessner is a gardener for the grounds department at Cornell. Comments can be sent to [email protected] Guest room runs periodically.

Michelle J. Kelley