Phillipian Commentary: The Real Mess in Commons

Ben Fu

Last Thursday’s Weekender included a message from Paresky Commons stating that over 500 blue plates had gone missing from the building since the beginning of the school year. Although this number is larger than I anticipated, it doesn’t surprise me. In my three years as a student at Andover, mistreatment of Paresky and its workers has shown itself to be an unfortunate reality, and the disappearance of this many plates is the straw that broke the camel’s back.

When a lot of people come to a particular meal, often all of the plates are used. If the 500 missing plates were returned to Paresky, the plates would not need to be washed as frequently during meal times, and Paresky workers would not be held accountable for the actions of the student body. 

We’ve all sat in Paresky during lunch or dinner hours and heard Billy Flynn walk in and tell us to make sure our tables and our plates are cleared before we leave. In fact, many of us have heard Flynn’s speech so many times that we shrug off his requests and then immediately continue on with our meal. 

Flynn’s speeches, however, are not something to be so easily dismissed. As a Custodial Supervisor, Flynn is one of many whose job it is to keep the Paresky eating spaces clean and prepped for upcoming meals. When students leave their half-eaten sandwiches and smear their salad dressing on tables without cleaning it up, they make an already difficult job harder. The reason Flynn is telling us to pick up our messes is not so we clap for him, its because the messes we make are too numerous for the Paresky staff to keep up with, and he wants change.

His ideas are not nearly as radical as our responses paint them to be. We, as Andover students, are competent people. Upon our acceptance to Andover, we are expected to uphold the school’s values of respect and kindness. Cleaning up after ourselves is common courtesy and a concept that we should’ve learned well before entering high school.

These problems with cleaning up don’t only happen upstairs, though. Last year, we saw Jennifer Elliott ’94, Assistant Head of School for Residential Life and Dean of Students, send us countless emails telling us to clean up after ourselves in Susie’s. We did not heed her warnings, which eventually led to the closure of the entire area. I know I’m not the only one who’s noticed the student body’s inability to keep shared spaces clean. The Deans have told us. The Paresky staff has told us. It’s time to listen.

Keeping the blue plates within Paresky walls is also a big part of respecting Paresky staff. I understand that you need to bring your plate of stir fry with you to your fourth period class because you “just can’t wait until fifth period,” but there are other methods to prevent your hunger that doesn’t include bringing out a plate, like bringing your food in a cup. There is no need to scatter the blue plates around the Andover campus.

I’m not saying that every table should be completely spotless after every use, or that the no plate should ever leave the Paresky doors again, because we all know that’s not going to happen. I do, however, implore people to start taking responsibility for the utensils and plates that they borrow, and stop leaving both Paresky and Susie’s a mess. The disrespect that students show to both Paresky and its workers has gone on for too long, and having 500 plates missing is clear evidence of that. We need to make a change.

It’s not Paresky workers’ jobs to clean up after every mess that students make. They work for seven days a week to ensure we have three meals a day. The least we can do is clean up the messes that we make.