Staff Editorial: University must value the impact of all staff on campus
After death of TDR staff member, it’s clear that the University lacks communication
In early November, Terrace Dining Room staff member Anthony Beagle passed away unexpectedly at age 51. After his passing, students created a memorial board to honor his memory after there was no communication about the passing from either food provider Chartwells or the University, according to previous reporting by The Eagle. There was a desire by students to honor his memory, regardless of a formal University notification. We commend these students for their empathy, and creating a tribute to Beagle and the memories that many on campus have with him.
Dining staff members, housekeeping staff and maintenance staff are all vital members of the campus community, not just for the difficult work they do in feeding and cleaning up after students, but because the nature of their work puts them into contact with students every day. It is these staff members that students see most regularly, and it is these staff members who often bond with students outside of the formal relationship of classes. For many students on campus, these members of our campus community are worth celebrating everyday. When one of them, especially in the case of Anthony Beagle, who was well-known for his outgoing personality, is suddenly gone, it has an impact.
The University’s lack of acknowledgement of Beagle’s passing is upsetting. If it had not been for the word of mouth from some other TDR staff members to students, it is doubtful that students on campus would have ever known about this. There would have been no knowledge of what had happened, just students wondering where what may have been their most consistent friendly face had gone. While the dining staff is not technically employed by the University, this lack of a statement seems to disregard how meaningful these staff members are. A public statement, either on a University social media platform or via email, that the very least provided condolences to the family of Beagle and alerted students would have been appropriate.
By both students and the University as a whole, these staff members can be forgotten, or their hard work unappreciated. In the case of students, however, there is consistent work to value and more importantly, support these campus community members, as there is a history of campus activism regarding TDR employees.
Not formally acknowledging the passing of a member of the campus community, as the University does for students, professors and other administrative members, seems dismissive. Students may have never interacted with a member of the administration, and while their passing should be acknowledged, students would also like the life of someone who talked to them everyday, perhaps for four years, to be given that recognition too.
Students are connecting with TDR staff members, and their death could be difficult to deal with. As the University generally does when other campus members pass, they provide a reminder of resources that students can access in dealing with grief. This situation, however, did not provide that necessary opportunity for encouragement to discuss a students grief. Instead, the University allowed for a situation where the onus is on students to talk about their memories surrounding Beagle and their feelings of grief. This emphasizes what seems to be an ignorance by the University as to how much students care about the people working with them.
The inconsistency in messaging about deaths of campus members is an issue for students. There do not always seem to be formal notifications about the death of faculty and administrators, and certainly not for staff members on campus. This can leave students in the dark about what has happened to someone who may have made an impact on their AU experience, and wondering what to do with their grief.
It is vital that students feel that if something happens to someone on campus, unless there is a desire for privacy from the family, that they will know what happened. Grief and sadness are complicated feelings that can be further complicated by the feeling that students may not “know” a staff member as well as their family or friends. Formal acknowledgement by the University of the impact that someone like Anthony Beagle had on students, someone who may have talked to them every day or who was just a friendly face, is the least that students ask for.