Take responsibility, neighbors

Trash is a reflection on the community it clutters.


PaigeGrossTrash is getting under my skin. I trip over it walking out of my apartment to the street. Bottles and cans glitter in the morning sun.

School is back in session, all right, evident by the stained mattresses and couches positioned like a maze, daring those trying to navigate the sidewalks.

Monday morning solo cups and cigarette butts feel a lot less like a reminder of some party we will reminisce over years from now and more like a blatant act of litter.

Last Thursday, the university received an email from Dean of Students Stephanie Ives, on expectations and behavior at the start of another semester. Right up there along with preventing sexual violence and drug and alcohol abuse was a reminder to be a good neighbor, referencing the university’s “Good Neighbor Initiative.”

Finally, I thought, someone is prioritizing trash.

But, unfortunately, it’s not the right someone—students.

“We realized there was a culture change happening,” Andrea Seiss, senior associate dean of students, said. “Students were moving off campus and into their temporary homes and they weren’t prepared for what that entailed.”

The “Good Neighbor Initiative” was formed a few years ago to better acquaint students with their surrounding community, its members and the responsibilities that come along with living outside of a dorm. Seiss said the idea to form the Initiative came from a student’s interaction with a long-time resident who informed him that he wasn’t disposing of his trash correctly and how that could cause problems for the neighborhood.

The Initiative’s site, under the Office of Student Affairs, offers information like history of the surrounding neighborhoods, community events—and, under the “being a good neighbor” tab—advisories on proper trash disposal, noise regulations and how to responsibly handle guests and parties.

It could be that many students do consider these dwellings their “temporary homes,” but the effect on the community could be a permanent one.

Seiss said depending on the time of year, the community can expect more or less littering, and while a neighborhood’s trash isn’t solely the student population’s fault, there is certainly an uptick during the academic year.

During the summer, Seiss added, when students are moving in and out of their homes, the trash left behind from the moves can be overwhelming—certain larger pieces or other items that don’t fit the city’s trash code might be left behind to live on the sidewalk.

Trash removal was of high priority for both Future TU and RepresenTU during May’s election for the 2015 leadership teams. RepresenTU’s online platform even included advocating for an extra trash day. Both teams recognized this problem as part of a larger one—community relations between Temple and the neighborhoods surrounding it.

So far, FutureTU has not implemented any new trash programs at the university, during their time in office. After multiple requests, FutureTU was not made available for comment.

Outside of the annual Philadelphia Streets-Department-sponsored Spring Cleanup day, Temple hosts some neighborhood cleanups events with students and residents. The Office of Student Affairs is currently revamping its site to add events like trash-cleanup days to the university calendar and to advertise the events. It shouldn’t just be left to block captains and students looking for volunteer hours.

If many important university figures continue to stress trash as an issue of conflict in our neighborhoods, then why is there so, so much of it on the streets and sidewalks?

While the information is out there on the Good Neighbor Initiative site, the university could be doing a better job of stressing the importance of what it means to be a good neighbor, especially when so much of the student population now resides in neighborhoods older than the university itself.

Just as important, though, students that choose to live off campus must also make the choice to take on all of the responsibilities that come with doing so.

Trash is more than just an annoying, scattered eyesore. It’s a sign that we don’t have respect for the streets we walk on and the community we learn in.

Paige Gross can be reached at paige.gross1@temple.edu or on Twitter @By_paigegross.

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