(Photo: Tom Alexander/MJ)
(Photo: Tom Alexander/MJ)

BY KRISTEN GOLEMBIEWSKI, Guest Columnist

Living in Detroit, I know what it’s like to not have access to basic services. I know what it’s like to not have street lights, and what’s worse – I know what it’s like to not have anyone you can call to get them fixed. I know that there’s a 99% chance that the cops wouldn’t come if I called, and I know how long it takes to get through to a living, breathing person when you call a branch of the city government.

But you know what? Even in a city on the verge of bankruptcy and destined for state takeover, I can get my trash picked up. Actually, I think that’s the one service I’ve never had trouble with.

So for me to come here, to the University of Michigan, where I pay $4,500+ a semester, and not be able to get the trash removed from the radio station is ridiculous. And to have to come here and have to empty my own trash infuriates me.

The policy of having students on the second floor empty their own trash isn’t new, but I just found out about it last week. I knew that students were required to empty the recycling bin – something I actually learned the hard way when the bin wasn’t being emptied. At first, I was slightly irritated. I pay how much to go here? And the custodial staff can’t even empty this bin? Are you serious?

But, I got over it. “It’s just the recycling,” I told myself. “We all have a civic duty to recycle,” I told myself. “I can live with this minor inconvenience,” I told myself.
And then I found out that apparently, we’re supposed to be emptying our trash cans as well. And I couldn’t even begin to try to convince myself that it was okay.

According to a Michigan Journal article from February, this policy went into effect on February 17. Apparently, having students empty their own trash and recycling bins is going to help the custodial crew “direct efforts to department trash/recycling removal and not individual offices.”

The article states that, “the program was set up so that custodial efforts would be quicker and more efficient without cutting jobs or raising the budget. [Director of Facilities Planning Kathleen] Pepin says that the money invested into the program will be returned in savings within two to three years.”

Really, Ms. Pepin? I haven’t timed myself, but I’d be willing to bet it takes less than 15 minutes (and that’s a generous estimate) to go to each USO and empty their trash. Even less if USOs put their cans in the hall.

And sure, the recycling program itself may save the university money. But having students empty their own trash? How much money is that going to save, exactly? Let’s get real, having students empty their own trash isn’t exactly going to be saving the university thousands.

This isn’t an issue of me not wanting to get dirty or that trash grosses me out. I once had a job that had me emptying the trash (and doing grosser tasks) on a daily basis. Sure, it was a little nasty. But I did it because I was being paid to do it.

This is an issue of me having to draw the line somewhere. I’ve had to accept a lot of things about this school. I’ve had to accept that I’m going to have trouble finding a parking spot. I’ve had to accept that our public safety officers get paid for merely sitting in their car, talking on their cell phone. I’ve had to accept that going into the women’s restroom is a crapshoot (pun intended) where I often have to go into multiple stalls before finding a clean one.

But I cannot and will not accept that I have to be my own custodian.

There’s nothing wrong with being a custodian. It’s a job like any other, and a necessary one at that. But if I’m paying someone to do a job (which technically, all students are paying the custodial staff in one way or another), I want them to do it.

I’m not going to empty my USO’s trash because I am not paid to do that. As soon as Ms. Pepin decides to put me on the custodial pay roll, I’ll be happy to empty the trash from the radio station and every other org on the second floor.

But until then, WUMD will continue to leave our full trash cans outside the door until someone from the custodial team empties them. And I encourage every other USO to join me. Because we all pay way too much tuition to not receive this basic service.

[mjopinion]