Friday, March 22

The night shift


UCLA's late-night employees share their stories

Valerie Vu, a fourth-year English student, works at Bruin Buzz in Ackerman Student Union until it closes at 1 a.m.

Valerie Vu, a fourth-year English student, works at Bruin Buzz in Ackerman Student Union until it closes at 1 a.m.

Blaine Ohigashi


While some students change into pajamas and get ready for bed, others are putting on uniforms and gearing up for a late-night work shift. They dispatch maintenance requests, sell midnight snacks and make sure students get back to dorm rooms safely. Here are a few stories from UCLA’s nocturnal employees.

11:30 p.m.

Galen Egan sits under harsh fluorescent lights in a quiet, dark building.

It’s his second time manning the On-Campus Housing dispatch center in Covel Commons.

The first-year engineering student is signed up for two shifts tonight, working from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m.

The work is mundane, he said. It mostly consists of answering phone calls from residents about maintenance requests.

The dispatch center receives the most calls on Thursday nights. Dispatch workers like Egan make the calls to Emergency Medical Services.

Every couple of minutes, a resident assistant calls in over the radio to sign off for the night.

“Dispatch copy, have a good night,” Egan says, following a scripted response. He checks off another name on a long list.

Egan relies on coffee to stay alert.

“Once Bruin Café closes, you’re on your own,” he says, smiling.

He gets a 30-minute break after each shift, during which time someone else will cover for him or he’ll put up a “Be back in 5 minutes” sign.

“I take my break pretty late, so no one really notices if you’re gone for more than five minutes,” he said.

Midnight

The halls of Ackerman Student Union are mostly desolate.

The sound of a sports announcer’s booming voice echoes throughout the building from the TV in the main lounge. The games at the arcade flash enticingly, but the room is empty.

Valerie Vu, a fourth-year English student, stands in uniform behind the counter at Bruin Buzz. She and her co-worker have pre-closed the cafe, not expecting many more customers for the night.

Ackerman Student Union recently extended its hours until 1 a.m. Yet Vu said she estimates only 10 to 15 people frequent the cafe between the hours of 11 p.m. to 1 a.m. Most are maintenance workers.

Sandwich shop Curbside Off Avenue A is also still open for business. Second-year mathematics student Yifan Yu mans the cash register of Curbside, and potential customers are nowhere in sight.

Yu had a linear algebra book at his side. He was studying for a midterm the next day.

12:30 a.m.

Cherrilyn Badilla declares she has the best job on campus.

From the hours of 9 p.m. to 5 a.m., the second-year international development studies student sits at a desk in dorm lobbies and “swipes” students’ BruinCards to ensure only residents and registered friends are allowed into the dorms at night.

The job made her nocturnal, she says, sleeping between classes to catch up on some shut-eye.

Access Control employees work in different buildings every shift. Badilla’s co-worker, second-year biochemistry student Kendall White, says it gives them a good feel for the atmosphere of each dorm.

White compares the social atmosphere of a few of the dorms in terms of urban versus rural landscapes: Sproul as a laid-back countryside, Rieber as a busy city, and Dykstra as a quieter city.

“But when the freshmen in Dykstra get loud, they get loud,” White said.

First-years are especially nice, he said, which makes working at freshman-dominated dorms like Hedrick Hall more fun.

Both said they enjoy small talk with students. As White swipes in a group of male students, one of them tells White he looks like a member of the musical group Far East Movement.

“Oh yeah? That’s cool,” White responds, smiling.

There is one type of student, however, White doesn’t like to encounter. An intoxicated one.

Access Control cannot let a student pass if they show signs of excessive inebriation. If a student cannot walk by themselves, the employees are required to call Emergency Medical Services.

Students have been resourceful in their attempts to sneak past Access Control at night, White said.

Most recently, he encountered some students trying to smuggle their intoxicated friend into a building in a move-in cart.

“People are entertaining,” White said. “It keeps the job interesting.”

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