It’s Time to Start Crying over Spilled Milk

Some time ago, Kate Dolan, Assistant Dean of Students and Residential Life, sent an email to the student body of a picture of greenware abandoned haphazardly on the Great Lawn. If anything, that photo is one of the more tame examples of how Andover students treat this campus like a giant trash can. We are all familiar with the sight of crumbs collecting on tables, empty bottles left behind, crumpled up plastic wrappers, and used forks scattered around. Students leave messes wherever they go, whether it’s greenware piling up on top of trash cans or crusted wrappers littered on the lawn.

We have all heard this a million times, but it is our responsibility to keep this campus clean. This place is not something we can take for granted, and this is not a matter of respect just for the physical campus, but for all the others who will sit at the same Gelb Tent table after you and walk up the same Samuel Phillips Hall steps trying to avoid spilled tea.

In many cases, we leave containers and crumbs behind because we think there is someone to clean up the disaster we leave behind. Well, for a place meant for the smartest kids in the country, we sure don’t act like it sometimes. It is nobody’s job to pick up greenware from places it shouldn’t be. The Andover employees are not being paid to clean up the messes of more than a thousand students. Their job is already difficult enough, as they have to cook, box, and clean thousands of meals amidst a global pandemic. The least we can do is take one minute to toss our green containers into the right box. Every one of us is perfectly capable of leaving our greenware in the right place. It’s arrogant to think that we are above cleaning up after ourselves, a life skill we were all taught when we were three.

George Washington Hall Tent, the Great Lawn, SamPhil steps: these places are not our dorm rooms, and we do not have the right to leave messes all around the place. It’s understandable to forget about something once or twice—we ourselves have done it more, probably—but if we ever glance back and see green containers, discarded utensils, and sticky milk cartons scattered around—we need to turn around and correct that instead of walking away. An inability to follow instructions as simple as put greenware in a box reflects poorly on us, on our privilege as Andover students, and ultimately manifests in the internalized belief that we are better than those who clean up after us.

Our time is not worth more than that of anyone else on this campus. Your one minute is not worth more than ours; our one minute is not worth more than that of the next person to find a table in SamPhil tent. We Andover students live in a bubble where our irresponsibility seems to bear no consequences—many of us have been privileged enough to have spent a lifetime in a similar situation. This privilege has conditioned many of us to continually act irresponsibly, and we have an obligation to ourselves to correct that while we have the chance.

This is a place where students are supposed to learn the moral obligation of what is right: picking up after ourselves is a part of that, no matter how trivial it might seem. You are not going to look back on your life and regret the time you spent throwing out your sticky and half-drunk Bubly.