Perez: Golden Rule at the Green

Basic respect transcends any ranking.

by Sarah Perez | 9/22/16 12:30am

Last week, U.S. News and World Report released its highly anticipated national university rankings. While Dartmouth’s standing in terms of undergraduate teaching plunged from second to seventh place, the College on the hill moved up to 11th place overall. At the very least, we can breathe a sigh of relief now that we have beat Cornell by a solid margin across both measures. Our counterparts in Ithaca will thankfully continue to be the butt of Ivy League humor.

In the spirit of full disclosure, I am skeptical of U.S. News’ rankings. As New York Times columnist Frank Bruni posits in his most recent column, “Why College Rankings Are a Joke,” these classifications amount to little more than a “marketing ploy” — or as I see them, a total crapshoot. I know that I’m incredibly blessed to attend one of the top educational institutions in the country, and I certainly didn’t need some arbitrary algorithm to remind me. But for those of us who needed the extra dose of validation, I’m happy for you. Going to a “top 11” school is definitely something to be proud of.

Yet before we become complacent and hang our hats on our No. 11 ranking, there’s something we must discuss. While we can debate ad nauseam what exactly made us drop out of the top 10 a few years back, that won’t be the focus of this column. Instead, this column will focus on seemingly irrelevant issues, ones that will have absolutely no bearing on next year’s U.S. News rankings.

The inspiration for this column came from an unlikely place — the bathroom across the hall from my dorm. Hear me out. As a resident of first the River cluster, Richardson Hall, Topliff Hall and now Ripley, Hall I consider myself a reluctant connoisseur of the good, the bad and the ugly of campus restrooms. It has never ceased to “amaze” me how we, as Ivy League students, are often incapable of performing the most basic of courtesies, e.g. flushing a toilet. Sure, we can nail our next case interview or cram for a multivariable calculus exam, but wipe down a toilet seat that we used? Now that’s up for debate.

The same goes for tables at Collis Café, the Class of 1953 Commons, the Courtyard Café and even Novack Café. Would it really be too taxing to wipe down your table after you’ve devoured your Collis muffin? To discard your greasy napkins after you’ve helped yourself to more mozzarella sticks than you care to admit? Like the vast majority of students on campus, I have reservations about Dartmouth Dining Services and its ability to nickel and dime us beyond reason. That being said, its employees should not be responsible for our inability to clean up after ourselves.

Last but not least, a conversation regarding our general carelessness wouldn’t be complete without mention of the gym. Pro-tip for the 20s (and everyone else, for that matter): please don’t be the person who leaves their weights, exercise equipment or bodily fluids lying around. Forgetting to unload six 45-pound plates from the leg press machine won’t get you many friends. Leaving a puddle of sweat the size of Occom Pond near your cardio machine probably won’t either. While I’m all for getting a good workout in, the least we can do is leave the space the way we found it.

In all honesty, I’m not a model for how to do any of these tasks perfectly, and to say otherwise would be obnoxiously self-righteous of me. But at the very least, I know that I can do better, and for this, I probably have my parents to thank. So, Mom and Dad, thank you for the lists of weekend chores. Cleaning up after my pet land tortoise or helping put away groceries may have cramped my style on Saturday mornings, but I guess it was all worth it.

At risk of sounding like your mother or coming across as a disgruntled senior, this all needed to be said, especially at the start of a new term. True, cleaning up after ourselves probably won’t put us back in U.S. News’ top ten. Being more mindful won’t win us additional praise or prestige. It won’t make midterms less painful or lines at Collis shorter.

But who cares? I’d much rather be a part of a community that truly cares for one another, and I hope I’m not alone in voicing this opinion. This isn’t a call to join hands and sing Kumbaya. This is just a reminder of something we learned long before coming to Dartmouth — treat others the way you want to be treated. When everything is said and done, we only get four years here. It’s up to us to make the most of it.