It’s the end of winter term, and everyone is exhausted. In the newsroom, we considered using our last editorial of the term to air our frustrations concerning accumulated stress, yet another political issue, or a new internet trend. Instead, though, we decided to turn our attention to a challenge with an easier solution — lack of respect for Commons workers.
This year, we’ve received a striking number of emails from both Head of School John Palfrey and Dean Jennifer Elliott ’94 about the state of Commons and the Den. Most of these emails came with image attachments– of spilled milk on the floor, crushed chips underneath couches, and most commonly, plates of food abandoned on tables. Two Wednesdays ago, Palfrey sent us another email, and reminded us to “think ‘Non Sibi’ rather than ‘pro se’.”
This issue, however, doesn’t feel like a Non Sibi issue—cleaning up our own plates isn’t giving back to the community, it’s a matter of basic respect. But for some reason, the truth is that we’re all guilty of leaving something or another behind– grains of salt, a cup, or a napkin. It’s easy to prioritize our own time and obligations over a mess that feels trivial.
We have to remember, though, that we as students aren’t the only people on campus who might be feeling exhausted. Spilled milk won’t evaporate on its own, and those salt grains won’t disintegrate either. When certain Commons workers tell us to clean up our plates, they’re met with what often feels like sarcastic clapping, which is disrespectful in its own right. Even if our clapping is genuine, though, there’s more that all of us can do to avoid putting extra work or stress on people who cleaning will ultimately default to.
In the end, all of us would choose to sit at a clean table over one covered in rice. All of us would rather the Den be open than closed. Most of us could probably do without another ‘put your plates away’ speech. The actions we should take are obvious, so let’s fix what problems we can.