It’s hard to imagine Swarthmore without Environmental or Dining Services. EVS takes care of every space on campus and Dining Services provides food for over 1,000 people every day. Neither of those jobs are easy. They are physically challenging and require an immense amount of energy. Why then, are students so comfortable forgetting about the importance of these vital staff members?
It’s easy to get caught up in the everyday rush of being a Swarthmore student. In the daily process of running around campus, we often forget those who run this campus from behind the scenes. Thinking about who cooked the food that we quickly throw into our takeout containers is the last of our priorities. Thinking about who cleans the bathrooms and vacuums the hallways every day slips away from our minds.
This behavior becomes problematic when students begin to blatantly disrespect EVS and dining workers. There’s no reason to let garbage pile up, forcing EVS to go out of their way to clean it, when it would take us a few seconds to properly dispose of it. Breaking down your boxes saves EVS valuable time and only takes a small portion of yours. Cleaning up after yourself is basic decency. Yes, these people are here to help maintain spaces around campus, but there is no reason that the burden should be solely on workers to do this. The campus serves as our home for the short time we are here, and we owe it to everyone to treat it as such.
Doing small things like cleaning off your plates in Sharples, sorting your silverware, and putting the tray with spare dishes on the conveyor belt — even if you didn’t use it — can help workers during their days and spare them unnecessary trouble. It also shows that you appreciate the work that is being done for you — work that certainly isn’t easy. Asking the cashiers at the coffee bar about their day shows that you value them as people, rather than just people who serve you coffee before class.
Doing the bare minimum to be kind and appreciative to those who work to help us succeed and function should not be a radical statement. It should not require debate or articles in The Phoenix. Yet, judging by the ridiculous state of disarray the hallways and dining hall often end up in, it does. Greeting or thanking the people who ensure that your living space is sanitary shouldn’t be difficult. As college students juggling a dozen things on our plate, it’s easy to become unaware of the people around us whose services we take for granted. But that is no excuse to mistreat EVS, Dining Services, or any of the other staff members who help keep our environment clean and school running smoothly.
As a campus, we need to do better. We are incredibly lucky to have people who take care of the place we, sometimes begrudgingly, call home. So put in a little extra time to clean up after yourself in Sharples. Pick up your garbage in the lounge so EVS can get their work done more efficiently. Just as importantly, say hi. Smile. Ask the staff around you about how their day was and maybe introduce yourself. As members of a community, we have a mutual responsibility to care for each other. So in the midst of the hustle and bustle of college life, let’s not forget to appreciate them.