You've seen the trash in the hallway. You've heard the angry Allisonites. But where exactly are the missing trash cans?
Residential Services created new Trash & Recycling Centers at the start of Spring Quarter to reduce hallway clutter, provide a more sanitary disposal experience, eliminate odors and prevent barriers to potential emergency exits.
However, these centers have become a source of tension in Allison. “It creates a problem where a problem didn’t exist,” said Communication sophomore and Allison President Jules Cantor.
Although the change posed little inconvenience to Cantor at first (he lives around the corner from the center), he recognizes the problems other residents face.
“Combined factors of inconvenience and that room smelling really bad have made it into somewhat of a problem,” he said. Allison’s centers are located on each floor in unventilated closets.
Area Coordinator Keenan Yul Colquitt, Jr. emailed SHARC, the residential area consisting of Allison Residential Community, Shepard Residential College and Public Affairs Residential College (PARC), on April 1 to announce the new centers.
Colquitt’s email included a map locating the centers. Numerous signs point the way throughout the building. For students, however, the problem isn’t finding the centers. It is adding a trip to the center as a part of their daily routine.
Medill freshman and Allison’s Eco Representative Orko Manna said his role is to implement environmental and eco-friendly measures into daily dorm life. This includes reminding residents to conserve energy, recycle and use reusable water bottles. Manna said his position places him at the forefront of the trash debate.
“I am usually the first or second person they contact to talk about the new trash and recycling centers, so I know that it is an issue that I should try to resolve,” he said.
Manna created a survey using Google Drive, which he said acted like a petition, to encourage students to write their complaints. So far the survey has 80 responses, the majority negative. Manna contacted the Office of Sustainability. “We have been working intensely on this issue for a couple weeks now,” he said.
As Cantor and Manna work towards change, the garbage is building up. In protest, residents pile trash where cans used to be. Pizza boxes, water bottles, wrappers, piled up to portray students’ rising discontent. Even when the halls do look clean, Manna said he feels the filth is just being moved, not cleared.
“The centers may keep the rest of the dorm slightly cleaner, but the rooms themselves smell disgusting and can be a breeding ground for health and cleanliness issues,” Manna said. One of Manna’s main concerns is the effect this issue has on recycling. Students don’t want to walk to the centers. When they do, they throw everything in one bin.
Manna does recognize the benefits: one central location for the cleaning staff to access, more aesthetically pleasing hallways and overall less clutter. However, to him the negatives outweigh the positives.
“If the idea was to make the dorms cleaner, it is clearly not working,” said Manna. As much as both Cantor and Manna would like to change the circumstances, there is only so much they can do. “It’s just a waiting game now,” Cantor said.
Colquitt's April 25 email attempted to end this waiting game. “To be specific, I know of no plans to move the trash cans back to their prior locations,” he wrote. Although offering to listen to students’ complaints and forward them on to Residential Services, he described the new centers as, “here to stay.”
"Making a mess that only you have to deal with isn't an act of civil disobediance, it's just stupid. Anyone found engaging in behavior leading to our buildings being less healthy and safe, will be held responsible," he wrote.
Whether changes are made or punishments dwindle the issue, Manna said this experience has been reflective of dorm politics. “It goes to show that dorm governments are willing to do more than just host munchies and plan formals – we are willing to make all residents feel like their voices are being heard, and we try to make their experience at Northwestern the best it can be,” he said.
If that means dealing with trash along the way, they are more than willing.