Students’ lack of effort to return plates and utensils to the dish room and clean up leftover food and trash has been a problem for a decade, Director of Dining Services Keith Jones said.
To replenish the cutlery misplaced by students, he added, the school purchases over 400 plates, bowls, and glasses each September and December—a $2,700 cost annually. When the dish budget is exhausted, as it was last spring, the school is forced to switch to plastic cups, the cheaper yet significantly less environmentally friendly option.
Even though cleaning up student messes is not in the kitchen staff’s job description, Mr. Jones said his team spends an hour a day bussing and cleaning lunch tables, tasks that force them to work longer hours that often encroach on their lunch breaks and take time away from their main duties.
“The idea that students don’t take more pride in the condition of the Commons is appalling to me and others,” Mr. Jones said. “Students should show their appreciation for the extra space by keeping it orderly all the time.”
Some students called the apparent lack of respect for the kitchen staff and school property a cultural issue the student body needs to manage.
“We need a culture in which we see it as our responsibility to clean up after ourselves instead of relying too much on maintenance staff,” Aurash Vatan ’19 said.
Mia Maginn ’19 agreed: “It’s really sad because it shows that there is an unhealthy atmosphere at BB&N where people think they don’t have to be responsible for themselves.”
The kitchen staff is still searching for an effective solution to the neverending mess, but Catering Coordinator and Assistant to Director of Dining Services Deborah Liang said she believes the needed cultural change begins with caring individuals, and the rest of the student body will follow.
“The more each individual does it, the more it becomes a lifestyle,” Ms. Liang said. “We have to train our minds to develop healthy habits and hopefully, when everyone adapts to this principle, it will become the norm.”
Mr. Jones said a quicker solution must be enacted to initiate change.
“There needs to be a policy and policing of students at lunch to catch and deter the students who are not making any effort to maintain a clean Commons,” Mr. Jones said. “I visit many other schools where students leave their cafeteria clean and orderly after they eat lunch every day. Why can’t that be the norm for BB&N students?”
Dean of Students Rory Morton ’81 reported past initiatives to stop students from trashing the Commons—like faculty taking shifts to monitor lunchroom activities—had been met with limited success, especially because of the Commons’ large size. Until an initiative proves successful, the kitchen staff hopes that raising awareness will change students’ behavior.