They’re everywhere on campus. No matter which direction you look, there is a good chance of spotting one. No, it’s not a Dave Matthews t-shirt, or a G Love and the Special Sauce patch. Even more apparent than Creed paraphernalia around campus are UB’s Personalities in Uniform. If you’ve ever been creeped out by some of these individuals, you won’t any more. Gentle, funny, badass ink jobs—all are characteristics of these fine folks bearing UB insignias. Generation went on an adventure to bring you, the UB student, a better understanding of the day in and day out activities of these charming uniformed heroes.
Putnams—we all know it as the staple to on campus eating. “This place is where it’s at. It’s the meeting place for everyone, it’s nice and convenient, and it’s probably the best food on campus,” says junior Dave Pillersbaugh. Sophomore Eamon Klein expresses his appreciation for the workers at Putnams. “Every day I come in and I talk to the guys at the sandwich shop, or at the pizza counter, and I always get a kick out of the conversations. I love Putnams.”
When you think of some of the workers at Putnams, who do you appreciate the most? Many students told Generation that their favorite was Ron Smith, who is a sandwich maker at Putnams. “That dude is the greatest, and to girls man, he sure knows how to sweetalk,” stated Ronald Behm, a senior computer science major. So what is it that makes Ron such a likeable guy? He hypothesized that his popularity is because “I’m friendly to all my patrons and my attitude is the best.” Ron works the day shift during the week, serving up sandwiches at the busiest lunch hours at Putnams. “I have a lot of return customers, and basically they all love me ‘cause I’m the best to them. Everybody says I’m the best sub-maker on campus,” he ventured. Now, nobody knows if Ron has his doctorate in sub-ology, but his sandwiches are damn tasty! Ron told us that the sandwich counter attracts the most customers every day of the week, and that sometimes his job becomes downright hectic. Don’t confuse that as a complaint, because Ron doesn’t mind it whatsoever. He promised, “Keep coming back to me, and I’ll keep making the most delicious sandwiches you’ve tasted.” When the question came up as to whether or not Putnams was the best, Ron shouted, “You know it!”
It is not only in the Student Union where great food service workers exist. Three miles south at Goodyear Hall, the students regard Lois Cultrara as a mom away from home. Celebrating her tenth anniversary as a food service representative here at UB, Lois handles the swipe card duties at Goodyear Dining Center weeknights. “I’m a mother, and I understand the needs of the kids,” she said regarding her approach to the job. “As a mom, I’d want someone to look after my kids.” Lois has a reputation around the South Campus for not taking much crap from anyone, and she gets respect from the diners. “Friday nights are the toughest, when we get some of the partiers coming in for a late night snack…if they say ‘I’m gonna throw up,’ I ask them if they need a mop and broom to clean it up,” she said. Lois definitely doesn’t take any lip from the students, and she attributes that to her yielding so much respect.
As for the new dwellers of the South Campus residence halls this year, Lois contends “they’re the best freshmen class we’ve had in a long long time.” South Campus resident Miriam Rodney expressed her appreciation towards her favorite dining lady: “I go straight up to Lois if I need anything.” Students wish that she worked the weekends, too, because as Rodney puts it, “things seem to fall apart without her.”
Lois’ most memorable moment at work was going into labor while working at Berts in 1993. “That sure did turn a few heads,” she mused. Lois is one of the fine uniformed faces we come into contact with here at UB daily. “I mean, I see you guys more than I see my family!”
In addition to the loveable foodservice personnel are the genuinely kind and tolerant Blue Bird bus drivers. An inevitable part of the daily routine for students living on campus includes hopping aboard the famed Blue Bird. With a new fleet of Coach buses that 86-year-old driver Hal Williams calls “the milktrucks” chugging through campus, it is now cooler than ever to jump aboard and say, “Take me to Governors!” Sure, maybe it isn’t the best feeling in the world to have to wait 20 minutes for one of the Blue Birds to turn the corner on a chilly February morning, but once you get on and start chatting it up with some of the drivers, you’ll realize everything’s a-ok.
Indeed, each and every Blue Bird driver is truly an individual. Tina, for example, is the hands-down sweetest driver, who works eight hour shifts weeknights and Saturday afternoons. You may recognize her by her rimmed glasses and flowing white hair, but you will assuredly know her by her constant toothy grin. “We drivers smile so much, [our] mouths get stuck,” claims Tina, who has been at the wheel of a Blue Bird for nearly 20 years. Although she devotes a great deal of time to her job, she points out that she enjoys other hobbies as well. “This is a fun thing for me to do, but it’s not my life,” she said, noting that working nights allows her a life during the day—“The daytime is when I take the dogs out and feed the birds.” When asked what she thinks about the new buses, she replied, “They take a little getting used to, and it’s a little eerie having all the controls computerized. Heaven help us if there’s ever a glitch!”
But what Tina loves most about her job is “being around the young crowd, because they make me feel young. I’ve seen UB grow so much right in front of me, and I just love UB, period!”
Another driver who enjoys being at the helm of a Blue Bird is Jeremy. Sporting a beige Nike visor, he operates the Ellicott to Lee Loop shuttle every weekday. “Other than standing in the stairwell or not moving back in the aisle, for the most part everybody’s cool,” said Jeremy, who enjoys driving the route from Ellicott to Lee. “There aren’t as many chances to get into any accidents, and it doesn’t get boring driving the short distance.” In fact, driving the Blue Bird back and forth can prove to be quite an exciting experience. Jeremy reminisced about a brush with death while operating the bus, packed with party goers, to and from South Campus. “This dude just jumped into the road, and I had to swerve to avoid him,” he recalled. “It was a pretty close one.”
And how does Jeremy deal with the stress of driving rowdy kids around campus? Near the end of his shift, he pops in a tape of “Low Rider,” by War, and pumps it on the speaker system through the tunnel. “They get a kick out of that.”
As a newcomer in only his fourth week, driver Earl Stott handles the fill-in duties whenever another driver calls out. Although he is a fill-in, Earl easily sees roughly fifty hours a week from the driver’s seat. He admits that the schedule is a demanding one. “Sometimes it’s at night, sometimes it’s during the day, so it’s hard to get acclimated with sleeping patterns.” Earl mentions that while filling in for the Flint to South Campus express, in an eight-hour day, he can easily rack up 200 miles driving. He views it as “an overwhelming amount of responsibility, but I enjoy it.”
Earl’s hectic schedule has allowed him to experience the tame students, quietly cramming for an exam, as well as the drunk and exhausted bar rats. He fondly recalled his first throw-up incident while bringing students back from Main Street. “This bus was like a biohazard,” he said.
The overall consensus amongst the Blue Bird drivers is that they are happy with their line of work and enjoy the company of college students, but they also admit that there is room for improvement within the system. “What would I like to see change most around here? I really wish UB would give us some convenient bathrooms down near the Main Street stop, for heavens sake,” exclaimed too-cute Tina. Amen to that.
Possibly the least understood and most cautious relationship that UB students have with Uniformed Personalities here on campus is with the University Police. Sean Cunningham, a sophomore computer science major, feels “no better or no worse than [he] feel[s] about the police anywhere else.” Noting that they seem very dedicated to their jobs, he said, “I am glad that they are real cops,” hinting at his disapproval of security at his former school, Finger Lakes Community College.
While expressing unease concerning her safety at times, South Campus freshmen Chrissy Yorgy finds the police friendly—“They say hello when they are roaming the halls of Goodyear.” Chrissy’s biggest knock against the University police is their lack of exposure. “They need to be more visible,” she suggested.
Why does the department have preconceived biases, and what really goes on behind the scenes with the uniformed officers? With these concerns and admissions, the crack team of Generation peacemakers aimed to iron out the wrinkles with the University police.
The police themselves are aware of the notions students hold about them. Patrol Officers Don Kreger and David Coffey were quick to mention that there are a plethora of additional duties University Police have other than driving around in police cruisers and walking on the beat. Both officers, who work the evening shifts, are involved in their individual assignments, and have numerous other tasks to complete. Coffey holds the title of “community officer,” and is assigned mainly to the Governors residence halls, where he attends floor meetings, “familiarizing the students service-wise with what [University Police is] all about.” Officer Kreger is Chairperson of the Employee Assistance Program here at UB.
Despite their different positions, both officers stress their belief in what is called “problem-solving policing,” which is meant to root out a problem in its early stages before it continues to grow. Their “proactive rather than reactive” approach is a large part of what they aim to achieve as University Police.
When asked about their daily routine, the officers were quick to break down the assumption of police having a “routine.” Rather, it’s more of an evolving day, every day, “We never do our jobs with the mindset of step one, step two, and so on,” said Coffey. While on patrol, Coffey says that he’s “always on guard for anything suspicious,” while Kreger stresses that their job is “not to look for specifics, but everything and anything in general that is at risk of endangering someone’s safety.”
However, for Officer Kreger, it’s difficult to protect students when others stand in the way. He feels that careless drivers speeding around the University are a great safety risk. “It doesn’t seem like anybody passed their drivers test, mainly because they don’t seem to even know how to operate the controls of their vehicle,” he said.
While the University Police work to protect the University’s students, many officers feel that the relationship between themselves and the college crowd can be compared to oil and water. “Sometimes the UB community doesn’t really fully gauge what authorities we have as officers of the state,” mentions Officer Coffey. Officer Kreger states, “Unfortunately, we’re the ones who have to tell people no, and they don’t particularly like that.”
Lieutenant David Urbanek, who has been with the University Police for fifteen years, ironed out the false pretense that many students have of the police being uneducated and under-trained. “For many of us, this is our second career…a lot of us made this choice to be here, and do what we do,” he asserted. “As part of the University Police, we’ve grown here as individuals more than in any other field we’ve been through.”
Urbanek, whose wife and daughter are also involved with UB, has seen major changes in the fifteen years he has worked with the school, and mentioned that the greatest part of his job is “dealing with regular people, and enjoying a conversation with the everyday person, especially around a college campus.” For Urbanek, the idea of talking to college professors, students, and staff in one area is an appealing mix. He stresses that students shouldn’t be weary or intimidated by the police at UB, because to the officers “students aren’t our problem, they’re our greatest asset.”
University Police and Public Safety chief John Grela agrees, and wants the students to feel comfortable with the job his department is doing. “We’re trying our best, and we have professionals to do it,” he noted, continuing, “Our department is as good as it gets in New York State, or the even the country, for that matter.”
Confidence and understanding from the students are top priority for these University Police officers. “We go through plenty of intensive training. It’s not like we are just recruited and told to watch a lot of cop shows,” Urbanek said laughingly.
And so ends our little journey around campus spotlighting a few of our UB Personalities in Uniform. These people are surprisingly approachable, and will tell you some pretty entertaining stories if you so choose to chit-chat. So get in line at Putnams and say hello to the workers who are always handling those long lines. Jump aboard a Blue Bird and sink into the cushiony seats while reading the silly inscriptions on the seat backs. And try and keep an open mind when you walk past a police officer on campus. We see these people every day as we work our way through UB, and it might give you a little ease to know that they’re really on our side…unless, of course, you’re a skateboarder.