The Blue & Gray Press

The University of Mary Washington Student Newspaper

Littering on stairwells poses a safety hazard to community

4 min read
By LUKE HILLMER Senior Writer The UMW campus pushes for sustainability as part of a greater effort to encourage students to recycle more. But some students, and possibly staff members, appear to not only fail to recycle but are also failing to throw away their garbage in proper waste bins.

Luke Hillmer


Senior Writer

Trash cans are plentiful at the University of Mary Washington. It’s difficult to walk any amount of distance across campus without seeing one. Most are accompanied by some sort of recycling bin. The UMW campus pushes for sustainability as part of a greater effort to encourage students to recycle more. But some students, and possibly staff members, appear to not only fail to recycle, but are also failing to throw away their garbage in proper waste bins. UMW students need to be extra careful when it comes to leaving garbage on stairwells, because pile-ups can lead to dangerous tripping hazards that can potentially injure students.

Last Wednesday at around 4:30 p.m., Combs Hall had a horrible mess on the entrance stairwell. The steps were littered with what appeared to be a mess of corn, rice, beans and torn bread. The mush was slowly being eaten away by a small troop of ants. It’s difficult to discern whether or not this was a result of someone’s spilled Qdoba, or someone vomiting on the stairs. Regardless, the mess was still there an hour later after I was released from class, waiting to trip some unwary person walking down the steps.

Susanne Cromleuy, a senior majoring in Spanish and math, said that she’s seen a lot of similar food spills increasing across campus,

“I notice that there’s a lot of food spills,” says Cromleuy. “Like, people just spill their food, there’s so much trash, I don’t get it. It’s so easy to just get rid of it, there are disposals literally everywhere. It definitely annoys me, and it’s very wasteful.”

Concrete steps are a common hazard at UMW; slipping on them can lead to some serious injuries. Many who used the parking deck located near Arrington Hall last year may recall the phantom banana that contained half of its inner contents, which sat on the third floor northern stairwell. It sat there and rotted for the entire semester until it was nothing but decomposed soil.

Visitors of that same parking lot may have walked up the stairs last week to discover either a few bloody tissues, or a large wooden branch that somehow got lodged two floors deep into the parking deck stairwell. The outdoor parking decks not only have issues regarding students, either accidentally or purposefully, leaving garbage on the stairs, but they also have issues with leaves, branches, and other parts of nature accumulating on their stairs. With November finally here, leaves are really starting to fall, and it won’t be long till this build up makes traversing the stairs even more of a nuisance for students.

Abdel Hamid is a freshman who commutes. He often parks on the top floor of the parking deck, so his experience with the garbage is admittedly limited, but after seeing some of the garbage students had left on the parking deck stairwell, he had some thoughts.

“It’s definitely not a good thing,” said Abdel. “It makes me annoyed that there are people here who just can’t throw stuff away.”

Another issue is an increase of garbage being left on stairwells that are dimly lit at night. Objects like clear plastic bottles left on these steps can be a serious tripping hazard for students.

“It’s just gross. I’ve seen a lot of ripped up paper towels on the stairwell of my hall, but you can see that so it’s really not a hazard, but I don’t really feel safe when walking down stairwells that aren’t really lit up at night because you can barely see what’s around you,” said Samantha Auclair, a freshman who expressed concern after recently seeing a plastic Pepsi bottle left on a dark stairwell outside of Woodard Hall.

Various clubs have attempted to help keep the campus clean throughout the past couple of years, one of which is the fraternity Alpha Sigma Phi. As part of regular community service efforts, the fraternity helps clean up litter and garbage across campus.

“Picking up garbage isn’t our favorite community service event because there usually just isn’t a lot of trash,” said senior Adam Schoene, physics major and Alpha Sigma Phi member.  “Compared to other community service events it’s not that impactful, but it does help get the brothers out. I haven’t seen too much garbage, but when I do I try to pick it up whenever I see it, I feel like the other students do too as a community.”

Schoene also seems to believe that some of the garbage, such as a used condom that was rumored to be found near the Alvey Drive parking deck, may be being placed nefariously.

“The used condom thing sounds more like a deliberate act, I can’t really see someone just leaving it there because they forgot about it, and that’s a whole separate issue within itself,” said Schoene.

This is an issue that extends campus wide. Stairs can be dangerous, and leaving garbage on them can lead to some very fatal accidents. It’s time for everyone to do their part and keep the stairs safe and clean during the fall season. If you see garbage on the ground, pick it up. If you accidentally end up with too much food and don’t have time to bring to your room and put it in a fridge, then please put it in one of the numerous waste bins visible across campus. Littering, especially on a stairwell, is not only wasteful but also be a dangerous hazard for other students.

In the end, it’s not just about picking up the garbage. The issue is careless littering and the lack of courtesy for students, faculty and staff and visitors on campus. Students need to be mindful of the fact that when they choose to litter at their own convenience, they’re affecting everyone.

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