It happens at universities across the country.
Professors do it. Administrative staff do it.
Some sneak onto campus on evenings or weekends, and quietly do it when no one is around. Others are bold enough to do it during regular office hours.
I'm talking about cleaning. Dusting. Vacuuming. Sweeping. And, for the truly bold: Painting. Unblocking drains. Retrieving and repairing discarded furniture.
Ever been in a really nice clean office in the university? Odds are that the occupant of that office (or his/her admin assistant) is cleaning it regularly him or herself.
If a university was to divide tasks according to comparative advantage, it would hire cleaners to clean, administrators to administrate, professors to profess, and so on. So why do so administrators and professors end up cleaning their own offices?
One possibility is that universities are made up of hundreds of people, and those people differ in their desire for cleanliness. Perhaps the majority of professors, given a choice between dirtier offices/higher salaries and cleaner offices/lower salaries, opt for the dirt.
It would be a waste of institutional resources to bring university cleanliness up the standards of the most fastidious staff members, when the majority of people simply don't care. Since tailoring cleanliness levels to individual preferences is impossible, the second-best solution may be to provide a basic, adequate level of cleaning, and let those few border-line OCD neatniks take care of their own offices themselves.
Another possibility is that the comparative advantage argument is wrong - a cleaner risks disturbing or discarding important documents as soon as she touches a professor's desk. That pile of papers on the floor by the garbage can is not trash, but rather stack of vitally important student exams. Given the risk of cleaners doing harm, perhaps it is better to have professors clean their own offices.
Another possible source of university dysfunction (in general, and in this case) is the inability of management to commit to an optimal course of behaviour. Staff might prefer slightly lower salaries and cleaner offices to having slightly higher salaries and dirtier offices. However no negotiator in their right mind would trade off salaries against something as nebulous as cleaner offices, because it is impossible to ensure that management will actually come through with the promised increase in cleanliness.
This brings us to a third possible source of institutional failure: monitoring. As far as I can tell, the offices in the eight story building where I work are cleaned, over the course of a week, by a single cleaner. She could not possibly mop out every single office every week, as well as empty trash cans, dust, etc. So she mops people's offices when they need it - in practice, when they ask her to do so. This requires that the person be in their office on cleaning day (but not in the middle of a meeting), and also that the person knows that the mopping service is provided on demand, and doesn't feel badly asking for it.
Now I'm off to work to clean off my desk - metaphorically and literally.