High praise for University’s front line employees

By University Advancement and Communications Posted: April 8, 2020 12:15 p.m.

Campus Security has been on campus throughout the pandemic. (L to R) Security officers Alysha Lennox, Patrick Sherling, Lori Spanier, and Kaitlin Watkins.
Campus Security has been on campus throughout the pandemic. (L to R) Security officers Alysha Lennox, Patrick Sherling, Lori Spanier, and Kaitlin Watkins. Photos: U of R Photography

It’s a mid-morning Wednesday during one of the early weeks of the COVID-19 outbreak and Campus Security staff members Lori Spanier and Kaitlin Watkins are taking one of their patrols around a mostly deserted University of Regina campus. When they get to the Riddell Centre, they are approached by three students asking if the UR International office is open, as they  need signatures on their temporary resident extension applications. Spanier explains that the office is not open but encourages them to contact UR International through the University’s website. It’s a simple solution during these challenging times. For Spanier, helping people is one of the most satisfying aspects of her job.

Veteran Custodial Services member
Joe Harding says he and his
colleagues have stepped up their
games in regards to keeping the
campus clean and safe during the
COVID-19 pandemic.

“I’ve always been here to help people,” she says, “and so is our department. Students, particularly international students, are in a tough situation right now. Our job is to make sure everyone is comfortable and calm. Being available and safely interacting with the few people on campus is one of our priorities right now.”

COVID-19 has fundamentally changed the way we live our daily lives. Families around the world have cloistered themselves in their homes, leaving the house only for food, prescriptions or medical care. Many of those holed up are managing to do their work remotely, just like most University of Regina employees.

There are, however, groups of University staff members that despite the pandemic, are still working on site. Sprinkled around the campus are small pockets of employees from Information Services, Printing Services, the Registrar’s Office, Human Resources, University Advancement & Communications, Financial Services, and President’s Office, among others.

With more than 200 staff members, Facilities Management has the largest number of staff working on campus. A good number of those are Custodial Services and Campus Security personnel. The fact is there have been almost as many Facilities Management personnel on campus recently as there were before the pandemic outbreak.

According to Pat Patton, Director of Security and Operations, Campus Security is operating pretty much as usual,

Pat Patton, Director of Security and
Operations, says that staff who are
still working on campus are doing
an exemplary job.

but Custodial Services is enduring a huge shift as the daily cleaning has been ramped up with a major focus on sterilizing campus touchpoints like door handles, bathroom fixtures, and hand railings.

“As usual, our teams on campus have been doing an exemplary job,” says Patton who oversees both Campus Security and Custodial Services. “They are the heroes behind the scenes. They have been working diligently to keep our environment safe and secure every day.”

Joe Harding is one of those heroes. Harding has worked in Custodial Services for some 10 years. He echoes Patton’s sentiments and says COVID-19 has changed the way the unit approaches its day-to-day work.

“We’ve really stepped up our game as a team,” Harding says. “We have highly skilled staff who have increased their attention to detail during this pandemic. We’ve been bringing extra awareness to cleaning touchpoints and high traffic areas. Those things are really key in ensuring health and safety of our faculty, staff, and students.”

Emmet Boyle is the Director of Maintenance and Utilities. All but two of his staff members have been working on campus. The team was divided into daytime and evening shifts to reduce staff density in work areas and to help families cope with childcare challenges. 

“I think it is important to remember these folks have been on campus every day making sure the environment and facilities are safe,” he says. “The teams have all completed COVID-19 training provided by Health, Safety and Wellness and we have established strict protocols around physical distancing of two metres and rigorous hygiene. Supervisors have been scheduling work to ensure maximum physical distancing between team members. As always, it's safety first.” 

The Maintenance and Utilities team ensures that things like life safety systems, critical building systems, building envelopes, locking systems, energy managements systems, and Central Heating Plant continue to operate efficiently and without interruption. 

“We’re busy on campus maintaining the critical infrastructure and performing high priority work to prepare the campus for the eventual return of students,” Boyle says. “The campus is eerily quiet. Even though it's a bit easier for us to perform some tasks now, we miss the buzz of the students. While our top priority is the critical infrastructure, we will try to finish a few specialized projects that are best completed when the campus is especially quiet.” 

According to Neil Paskewitz, Associate Vice-President of Facilities Management, the unit’s mission is to create a safe and vibrant campus. While the University isn’t as vibrant right now as it was a month ago, it’s only a matter of time until things get back to normal. 

“Of course, our focus right now is on the safety of our students, staff and community,” he says. “Our teams are working hard at maximizing safety in our current environment, and then moving to adapting our environment through operating practices and renovations to further increase safety as we work toward the day our students, faculty, and staff are back on campus.” 

Paskewitz emphasizes that all University of Regina employees deserve credit for pulling together during these difficult times. He is particularly proud of those working on campus, especially those from the department he oversees. 

“To all of our Facilities Management staff and our partners on campus that are working with us to support our mission, thank you so much for your support and commitment. You are truly an amazing team and we will get through this difficult time together,” he says.