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Thursday, Mar 23, 2023

Work hard, grow up

What the f**k.

It’s what we’re all thinking — anyone, at least, who’s heard about the damage done to Atwater two weekends ago. It’s the only appropriate response to hearing that signs were ripped from walls outside suites, that elevators were peed in. And we’d imagine it’s what the custodial staff were thinking as they scrubbed urine off of elevator floors in Atwater on that Sunday morning. Afterwards, they threw out the mop.

This isn’t the first time we’ve editorialized on respect. It isn’t the first time we’ve editorialized on treating the custodial staff with due kindness, or bringing a basic level of awareness to interactions with our immediate environment. But this instance stands alone because of the absurd levels the destruction of two weekends ago reached. It’s ridiculous to have to tell grown men and women not to pee in elevators, or cause thousands in damages to shared living spaces by tearing signs off walls. Behavior like this seems to transcend previous level of disrespect, conveyed by leaving personal items in the bathroom or throwing out dinner plates — although we certainly don’t condone that, either. Destruction on this level is uniquely nefarious and egregiously entitled, and holds direct and degrading repercussions for custodial staff. It isn’t in Facilities’ job description to mop up urine from adults drunk on Pabst Blue Ribbon and privilege. As far as we’re concerned, it shouldn’t be in anyone’s.

But the script at Middlebury seems to have been written: When students stoop to this level of disrespect, when they choose to live out weekend fraternity fantasies, the job of cleaning up falls on custodial staff, while students carry on and deny accountability for damage they cause. To be clear, that denial of accountability isn’t limited to weekend nights. This Sunday evening, for instance, The Campus received a series of anonymous emails criticizing our response to the Atwater damages. Looking into the damages, asserted the sender, isn’t our job; “if an investigation is necessary,” they wrote, “the school should do it.”

We disagree, and we’re sure the facilites staff member who asked us to follow the story would, too. This level of disrespect can’t only be addressed by a CRD meeting and a fine of 30-something dollars per student. Changing this kind of deeply-ingrained, habitual behavior cannot be achieved on a case-by-case basis. Instead, it requires a holistic shift in Middlebury culture, or students’ own fundamental restructuring of the way we think about our lives here.

[pullquote speaker="" photo="" align="center" background="on" border="all" shadow="on"]Students’ fundamental disrespect and consequent destruction of the places where we live, study, and socialize has gone too far and must come to an end.[/pullquote]

Right now, a lot of us seem to think of the Middlebury campus (lowercase “c”) as a world without consequence. Stagger into Atwater on any given Saturday and you’ll find that mentality writ large, in neon body paint and alcohol stains all over the walls. Caught carrying your cider outside? Don’t worry, Pub Safe won’t actually call the police. Those beer cans on the floor there? Kick them aside, they’ll get picked up eventually. Sure, dance on the table if you want. You don’t have to worry about landlords, or authorities, or even working a vacuum in the morning. You don’t have to worry about anything, really — tomorrow, you’ll wake up and make the Sunday morning library-trek alongside the rest of the student body, untouched. Worst case scenario, you’ll have a lousy headache.

The assumption underlying all of this — that Middlebury isn’t the “real world”— is not only dangerously enabling of further destruction, but unacceptably entitled. As a member of the custodial staff pointed out to one of our editors, most of the Facilities workers were here long before we were, and will be long after. For staff, faculty and parts of the student body, this campus is very much the “real world.”

 And so it’s our job not only to respect that world while we’re here, but to set a good precedent for future Middlebury generations. The extent to which underclassmen take their cues from juniors and seniors is pretty clear; this past weekend, signs were ripped down in Allen Hall, a freshman dorm. An editor was asked by her Discover Middlebury prospie if that represented “normal Middlebury culture.” Does it? 

Chances are you’ve heard the term “work hard, play hard” used to describe Middlebury culture. Students here are committed to peak academic performance and, when the week concludes, many are looking to “blow off steam” built up throughout the arduous week. This over-compartmentalized, polarized lifestyle is toxic when taken to destructive heights. Put simply, students’ fundamental disrespect and consequent destruction of the places where we live, study, and socialize has gone too far and must come to an end.

This weekend is Homecoming. For alumni, it’s a chance to come back to campus and reminisce about their time at Middlebury. For current students, it seems all too fitting an opportunity to reflect on how we treat the school we’re lucky enough to still call home.

It’s time to grow up.