Award Name

Senior Award Winner

Author Information

Ernesto FragaFollow



This study explores the understudied experiences of service workers in elite settings, in this case, at a private elite college in the United States. I analyzed data collected from participant observations and from nine in-depth interviews with dining hall staff and housekeepers. I focus on the formation of what I call protective relationships among workers and students & faculty to shed light on how this dynamic is unique to elite private colleges. Protective relationships refer to the “social shields” that students and faculty bring to workers against injustices in the workplace. The analysis shows that while such relationships are beneficial to workers, they conceal the socio-economic inequalities that exist between workers and the students and faculty they serve. These findings help us expand our understanding of universal concerns, such as class and inequality.

Key Words: worker-customer relations, interactive service work, personalistic relations, inequality

Terms of Use & License Information

Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.