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The (un)natural light

| Thursday, April 26, 2018

As my first year here at Notre Dame wraps up, I find myself eager to return home to Grosse Pointe, Michigan — and hopefully to better weather. My mother visited only last weekend, and we found ourselves touring Notre Dame in 40-degree freezing rain. As miserable as it sounds, we were still able to enjoy ourselves. Our time was spent walking and talking, viewing all of the beautiful landscapes and buildings Notre Dame has to offer. We toured the Snite Museum of Art, walked past Bond Hall and Saint Mary’s Lake and found ourselves admiring the still-maturing Charles B. Hayes Family Sculpture Park. Without a doubt, my mother and I admired the beauty of Notre Dame.

But not all of it.

We did not particularly admire the countless, empty Natural Light cans strewn across campus. Nor did we enjoy the empty Kilwin’s containers pressed between fence posts. And we certainly did not adore the soggy Taco Bell wrappers stuck to the sidewalk.

Take the Sculpture Park, for example. My mother and I were inspired to visit so that we might have a nice relaxing walk. Upon arrival, however, we were inspired only to remark upon the poor upkeep of the park, and the University in general. We picked up smashed beer cans and old Chipotle wrappers until it became overwhelming. We were sick of the cold, and even more sick of the trash.

As my mother and I walked away from the Park, we had a conversation regarding this poor upkeep. My mother noted that the University seemed to acquire a fair amount of trash on Saturday mornings, likely caused by some impatient members of the student body. I agreed, but pointed to another possibility. When was the last time we saw a trash can? Yes, these students who litter are totally wrong in doing so, but if they cannot be stopped, is there not another solution?

Let’s think.

If I walk from LaFortune Student Center all the way back to my residence within Duncan Hall, I will pass only one trash can, assuming I take my normal route. If I alter my walking route, I will pass two trash cans, yet both are in front of South Dining Hall. Now, this may sound like an appropriate sacrifice of time for the proper disposal of trash, but let’s imagine a less patient — and possibly less sober — member of the student body. Also, we could imagine a different route, one with no trash cans on the way. And say, this student has trash which he or she might not want his or her rector seeing (i.e. our friend, Natty Light). Or maybe, said student has a cold beverage during a Notre Dame winter storm. And it could be that this student just really has to go to the bathroom, and does not have time to find a trash can before he can find a tree. As Notre Dame students, we have all seen this, and we should all know that it is completely unjustifiable. Yet, does it happen?

The answer is, yes. Just look around on campus. Trees are decorated with Red Solo cups. Plastic bags travel like tumbleweeds along the quads. Squirrels are turning over beer cans before finding their acorns. A university which prides itself on its aesthetic beauty is all too often riddled with trash.

So how can Notre Dame help?

This problem is not exclusively the University’s fault, but I do believe Notre Dame has to take the first step in solving any problem — acceptance.

Notre Dame is a university, and as a university it must accept the unfortunate prevalence of littering. It also must realize this problem is bound to continue. I applaud the great strides the University has made in recycling, and the efforts of the sustainability campaign are exceptional. However, Notre Dame now needs to take steps to get these trash cans and recycling bins onto the campus. So please, Notre Dame, put in some extra trash cans.

Start with Duncan Hall, where our exterior trash can was actually removed! To be fair, it was removed by some rowdy advocates of Natural Light, but the point remains. In its place, we are left with a slab of bricks and four metal rods protruding from the ground.

Or, you can start with the Sculpture Park, where my mother and I spent our time picking up trash rather than appreciating art.

Regardless of where you start, Notre Dame, I ask you to please, begin making the change. There needs to be a higher number of trash cans and recycling bins on campus. As for finishing the change, it is up to us: the student body. We need to do a much better job in maintaining the beauty of our University.

And for those who argue that trash cans will take away from the beauty of the University, I offer this as advice. What is more beautiful? I would much rather have visitors commenting on the prevalence of trash cans than the prevalence of trash.

If we, the University and student body, pride ourselves on the beauty of our campus, then a hesitation to action is unwarranted. Next fall, my first year will be a thing of the past, and I certainly hope the abundance of litter will go with it.

Ethan Utley

first year

April 22

The views expressed in this Letter to the Editor are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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