Green: Damage and Disrespect
As I rounded the bannister of the second floor landing in Russell Sage hall on Sunday night, I saw it blinking there, on and off. A sad little light, crying for attention. At first I didn’t believe it, but my eyes weren’t deceiving me. A displaced paper towel dispenser, torn from the walls of the bathroom and for some unfathomable reason placed on the second floor landing where it proceeded to occasionally make a halfhearted effort to add to the rolls of unused paper that covered the staircase. How it got there may forever remain a mystery. Perhaps it’s related to the fate of the mangled wooden chair sitting at the bottom of the stairs, or the trail of destruction strewn throughout Russell Sage and beyond.

Its existence is no doubt the result of some escapade of Green Key, but one thing’s for sure: whoever put it there — most likely under at least one mind-altering influence — had no intention of coming back in the morning to return it to its home in the bathroom. Who then was responsible for its safe return to the bathroom? The custodial staff of Russell Sage, of course. The dispenser is just one example of the flippant destructiveness that often occurs on this campus. Taken together, this, the littered beer cans, the smashed furniture and the screens thrown from windows represent a general disregard and even disrespect for the people who work so hard behind the scenes to keep our campus beautiful, clean and safe. Before you say that this is an unreasonable criticism to make — and perhaps it is a little overblown — ask yourself how you would feel if you were one of the custodians walking into Russell Sage on Monday morning. I would certainly feel burdened, to say the least. While it’s the custodians’ jobs to clean up, they shouldn’t have to clean up messes that simply did not need to have been made. Every weekend, students get drunk and often purposefully make a huge mess just because they can. We know someone else will clean it up. Just because we’re in college and having a great time and working hard, doesn’t mean we have earned the right to give more work to those who make their living keeping our home beautiful. These are the people we should instead be going out of our way to thank. I know that my peers and I don’t intend to send a message of entitlement, but that’s how the things we do are likely perceived. It sends the message to custodians that we think they are so irrelevant or beneath us that we do not even consider how our actions affect them. Whether humans or robots or magic clean up the mess probably didn’t matter at the time to whoever put the dispenser there — but it should have. We all know Dartmouth is more than the stereotype to which it is often reduced, but actions like this only reinforce the perception that we are entitled kids letting loose in our rarified little bubble. The people who graduate from our school go on to be successful and accomplished adults. It’s too bad that behaviors like this are so prevalent here, because the attitudes and behaviors we allow to persist and grow in us at college will continue through our entire lives. As future leaders, we ought to aspire to loftier ideals, as individuals and as a community. I learned in kindergarten that you can’t make a mess and walk away. This applies to paper towel dispensers and subprime mortgages equally. We should practice responsibility and think about the effects of our actions.  We’re preparing ourselves to go out and make a difference in the world, so we should practice holding each other and ourselves accountable. A large part of accountability is recognizing that others are affected by what we do. As Ivy League graduates, many of us may benefit every day for the rest of our lives from the people working behind the scenes around us. We would do well to respect and appreciate their work. It’s the very least they deserve.
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