Dear Mac students: Please respect our public spaces

As my first year at Macalester comes to a close, I am left with an almost entirely fond impressions of Mac’s campus and student body. I love the friends I’ve made, I’ve learned a lot both inside and outside of the classroom, and I can’t wait to come back in the fall. However, I added the ‘almost’ because there is one thing that slightly tarnishes my view of Macalester’s student body. I’ve seen a lot of disrespect of public property on and around campus this year, and this disrespect deeply concerns me.

A few weeks ago, a painting on a wall of a public space on my floor was defaced. The painting was drawn on and the canvas was ripped. A drawing was carved into the wooden arms of one of the pieces of furniture in this public space on a separate occasion. Furniture from this public space is sometimes moved to places where it does not belong.

It’s important to emphasize that this space belongs to everyone, not just the people who spend a lot of time there. The furniture and decorations in and on the public places at Macalester are provided for us by the school. The fact that people feel that it’s okay to deface items that are provided for all students by the school is unacceptable. The students did not pay for these items. Therefore they have no right to physically change them as they please. We go to a school where being conscious of our environment and respecting our surroundings is heavily emphasized, so why are people so disrespectful to the spaces available to them?

Another related issue I have observed is that students generally do not clean up after themselves. People who spend lots of time in the aforementioned public space often do not clean up when they depart, leaving food trash and other waste on the furniture for someone else to clean up. This behavior also carries over to Café Mac. I often notice students taking their dishes away after finishing a meal, but leaving behind napkins and food debris on the table for someone else to clean up. This is unfair to the individuals who do have to clean up these surfaces and spaces. I find the sentiment, “Oh, I don’t have to do it, someone else will,” to be quite selfish. We are young adults, and at this point in our lives we should know how to clean up our own messes, and not to leave them for someone else to deal with.

Obviously, this lack of respect for public places does not apply to every Macalester student. Plenty of us are very conscious about cleaning up and would never deface public property. However, I feel as though many of us are guilty of disrespecting public places, even on a smaller scale. I’m sure I’ve left trash on a Café Mac table before, as have many others. Everyone makes mistakes, which I understand. But I feel that when trash is repeatedly left on a table and when a piece of artwork on a public wall is purposely ruined, we have gone past making a mistake and into the territory of disrespect. It’s time for Macalester students to take responsibility for the spaces around them. We need to show each other that we’re capable of respecting our surroundings, instead of just saying we are capable, and then defacing public property.