The Unexpectedly Lucrative Career of Cleaning Up After Ivy Leaguers

A Penn housecleaner tells her story, but Harvard leads the way in servants

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At least one woman is making a smooth six-figure salary cleaning up after Penn frat boys. This Cadillac-driving, toilet-scrubbing 51 year-old named Kia Grasty loves her work picking up after some of the Ivy League university's wealthiest and most privileged students, including the son of NYPD Blue's Kim Delaney. According to a Daily Beast profile:

More than a cleaner, many students view Grasty as something of a surrogate mother (Kim Delaney is far from the only parent with Grasty on speed-dial), who goes so far as to help coordinate moves and stock up apartments in advance of the new academic year. “To me it’s more than just cleaning,” she says. “I’m counting on my students to be the best that they can be. The smile on my face is when I ask my kids what’s your grade point average. That’s what inspires me.”

But clean she must. Accompanying the profile on Grasty is a gnarly set of photos showing kitchens coated with brown substances, backyards littered with half drunk cups of beer and at least one foot-tall bong.

Wealthy kids have been partying at expensive Northeast colleges and paying people to pick up after them at least since 1791 when some Harvard students hid a pig in his dorm room as a prank and in order to avoid being caught by the head proctor, killed it, cooked it and held feast with his best pals. They decided at that dinner to form the first Final Club called "The Porcellian" in honor of the swine whose carcass was undoubtedly disposed of by one of the servants Harvard employed to wait on the students. The Porcellian and other Final Clubs keep stewards on hand to this day to clean up after parties and maintain the multimillion mansions in Harvard Square.

Harvard evolved its practice of hired hands in the 1950s when the university set up the Dorm Crew program. Essentially as a supplement to GI Bill, the university set up a student-run porter program so that working class students could earn extra money by cleaning up after the wealthier students. The organization still exists as one of the largest employers on campus, and though their services have expanded past scrubbing toilets, the obvious class gap remains. Wrote one Dorm Crew worker in Harvard Magazine, "Crossing through common rooms and bedrooms filled with obvious wealth—plasma-screen TVs three feet wide, brand-new leather couches, designer clothes strewn around—it’s hard to ignore the gulf between my own experience and the apparent lifestyles of a considerable number of my fellow undergraduates."

Fast forward to 2005 when DormAid, a new business founded by Harvard students, made national headlines by offering dorm room maid services to students at colleges like Princeton, Yale and Harvard. The Daily Show investigated on Harvard's campus, where the business started, and reported back that "the presence of these maidy maid-maids is threatening to turn Harvard into an elitist institution, a Yale on the Charles if you will."

DormAid stayed in business and is now available on college campuses nationwide. But of course, Ivy League privilege pales in comparison to Britain where Prince Charles allegedly enlists servants to squeeze his toothpaste tube and fold down his toilet seat.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.