Up before dawn deep underground

Rachel Zein

UT Facilities Services is a multi-departmental unit comprised of the people who do the jobs that keep the University running — both in plain sight and underground. While facilities employees are responsible for cleaning UT’s campus, maintaining the landscape and offering technical services, others have more unconventional jobs. 

Leticia Vargas, a longtime facilities services employee, is responsible for unlocking UT buildings on the east side of campus. Vargas starts her day at 3:45 a.m. — no alarm necessary — to arrive on campus in time to start her 5 a.m. shift. In her more than 30 years working at UT, she has devised the optimal route for unlocking all of the doors necessary in as little time as possible, because even a five minute break can interrupt her intricate, two hour routine. 

While Vargas spends her days above ground, Joe, who asked that his last name not be used, works in the underground tunnel system that connects buildings across campus. Although working in the secretive tunnels may seem exciting, Joe described his job as “uneventful.” Despite rumors that the intricate underground network is used to transporting VIPs (like Bevo or Matthew McConaughey), the tunnels serve a more utilitarian purpose. These dark passageways give workers access to the plumbing and heating systems for different buildings and allow them to move across campus unseen. 

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