The one bad thing about weekend partying is my inability to sleep in after a good night's fun and debauchery. I just wake up at some ungodly hour in desperate need of water and over-the-counter drugs. Not to disturb my roommate, I'll often head outside and enjoy the early morning rays on the quad. All is quiet on West Campus.
At 8:30 a.m. or so, a member of the housekeeping staff marches onto the quad, armed with trash bags, brooms and a mechanical trash picker-upper arm thing. I make my usual salutations, as he has become accustomed to seeing me up early on the bench in my blue bathrobe.
For a moment, it seems like we're the only souls around for miles. I'm soon reminded otherwise when more housekeeping staff converge onto the quads. Of course, it's their job to be awake and working while Duke students transition in and out of REM sleep for a few more hours. I am voluntarily awake; no one's forcing me to lose my zzz's. I can sit casually on the bench while they get to walk around the bench looking for trash. The night before, I threw my red plastic cup on the ground. Now I have the privilege of watching them pick it up. Ah, the luxury that is Duke. I just can't wait for next weekend when I can again make my ritual salutations at 8:30 a.m. in the morning.
When was the last time any of us thought about what happened to that red plastic cup we left somewhere on a Friday night? Or that cigarette butt you saw someone throw down in front of a bench? I can tell you exactly what happened. At 8:30 the next morning, a member of the housekeeping staff picked up our crap off the bench and off the ground so that we can walk to lunch without having to dodge trash littering our path.
I get to see grounds and housekeeping pick up our mess ever morning I'm awake before 9:00 a.m. And quite frankly, I feel ashamed not only for my own lack of respect, but also for the lack of respect many students show for the people responsible for Duke's beautiful campus. Trust me, it's disturbing to watch a middle-aged woman bending up and down picking up litter left from the previous night's party.
Whether cleaning up after parties is actually in the work description of the housekeeping staff should not concern students. We make the mess. We throw cups and bottles haphazardly at benches, on the ground or in the bushes. It's probably safe to say that many of us do not litter so freely during the day, but as soon as everyone's favorite social lubricant arrives, it all gets a little crazy.
There are a few easy solutions to this problem that the University and the Housing Office can employ immediately. First of all, trash cans need to be placed next to every bench on campus. Not somewhere on the opposite side of the quad or hidden in the shadows near some bushes where no one would dare wonder, but next to every bench. Next to those trash cans, why not have "ash bins" for smokers to put out their cigarettes? Since all smoking has been moved outside, ashtrays/bins should have already started appearing around campus, especially next to benches where people often smoke.
Hopefully, students would use these new additions to campus out of respect to the housekeeping staff and out of deference to that age-old adage "Your Mama doesn't live here." But of course, there are more institutional measures that can be taken if certain people revel in their status on the Duke campus. Now, I am a friend of frats, but I certainly advocate policies that penalize living groups for excessive trash left after parties. Cleanliness could even be added as a specific category to the Annual Review for selective living groups.
I'm no radical environmentalist. I even throw litter out of my car window from time to time. But I don't like waking up and watching other people pick up our trash. As soon as the University makes trash cans and ashtrays more accessible, we can all start showing a little respect for our campus and, most importantly, to the under-appreciated people who help keep it clean. If you have a problem with this, I'll use you as an ashtray at our next crossing.
Christopher Scoville is a Trinity sophomore. His column runs every other Thursday.
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