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Dear Princeton University,

Please let us take care of ourselves.

Many of us don’t give a flying f*** about our campus, and our University, mostly, I think, because we are given little responsibility.

Our job as Princeton students is to get good grades and contribute to the academic reputation of the University.

However, the work we do is also largely self-interested. When we are striving for that A, we would be lying to ourselves if we said we were doing so in the interests of the University — no, we are doing so because we believe that an A now translates into a better career later. I am not saying there is anything wrong with this, but with such a mindset the University becomes nothing more than a stepping stone to something else. And stepping stones are often not treated with respect.

This letter comes from a place of frustration.

I think it’s about time we notice the litter scattered everywhere on campus. The tables full of napkins, crumbs, half-full cups, and sometimes even dirty plates that we leave behind in the dining halls. The bathrooms, which, after Thursday and Friday and Saturday nights, are disgraceful. You know exactly what I’m talking about.

Believe it or not, there are people who have to clean up after us. A real-life, human person wakes up at 5 a.m. on Monday morning, takes public transportation from Trenton, arrives on campus, walks into a bathroom, and is welcomed by a toilet full of two-day-old vomit. Then, they have to clean it up.

Is it okay to treat people this way?

The people who clean up after us are almost invisible on campus. The University would not function without them, but we often forget they even exist. In dining halls, we put our dirty plates on a conveyor belt, which takes our mess far, far away — to somewhere we can’t see, and therefore don’t care about. We don’t see the people in the back room who scrub our dishes for hours every day. We don’t get the opportunity to look them in the eye, let alone say thank you.

It’s not good. And it makes these real people feel less like real people.

It also comes as a detriment to us. In dehumanizing others, we dehumanize ourselves.

Let’s do something. I don’t know whether that means being more respectful to janitorial staff, washing our own dishes, or cleaning our own bathrooms. It’s probably all of them. But I think taking ownership of the space we live in is a good thing. It might even be fun. We might be able to declare, with conviction, that Princeton is our home.

Sincerely,

a proud Princeton Tiger

Carter Flaig is a junior concentrator in anthropology from Elkridge, Md. He can be reached at cflaig@princeton.edu.

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