Column: Multitasking: being good and lazy

Column: Multitasking: being good and lazy

I am all about taking the easy route. As a child, I learned to grasp my underpants between two toes and toss them up to my awaiting hand so I wouldn’t have to bend all the way over to grab them out of my drawer in the morning. At water parks, I don’t walk from waterslide to waterslide; I travel comfortably via The Lazy River. If I could afford a Segway scooter to keep me from walking in places other than water parks, I’d probably have one.

Therefore, I know most students also relish taking it easy. So, if we want to make a change to students’ routines they’ll actually recognize, it’s got to be right in front of their faces.

With that in mind, this much is clear: When it comes time to move out of our on-campus residences, our haste often amounts to waste.

Right now, move-out pretty much works this way. Administrators have the unenviable task of organizing moving schedules for about 7,500 on-campus undergrads and carrying out the orders through staff members.

That’s got to be hectic, and can lead to overlooked details. Meanwhile, the average student just gets the job done in whatever way is the quickest and easiest (like I said, we like taking it easy). In short, they cram all their belongings that can fit into Mom and Dad’s car or those big gray bins and toss everything else in their dorm’s garbage cans.

But this simple line of thinking often leads to a trash room literally overflowing with a veritable mountain of functioning toasters, untarnished jackets, and ship-shape coffee tables – all still perfectly usable.

Since there is no quick opportunity to save these items, they’re tossed. Out of sight, out of mind. But with only a slight bit of effort, we could give new life to old jackets and toasters.

Now, I’m not proposing any radical change to the way things stand as of now. All I’m saying is that if this school just changed one miniscule detail, we could make a widespread impact.

There are a couple of options to mull over.

First, our neighbor to the north, Bowdoin College, has the right idea. Four years back, the school, located in beautiful Brunswick, Maine, instituted a volunteer program to snatch the items students leave behind and sell them at flea markets open to the community, called “Dump ‘ Run” sales. The proceeds are then shipped to non-profits like Habitat for Humanity. The whole thing sounds pretty painless, right? Starting up a similar program here at Northeastern would be simple, and finding willing student volunteers wouldn’t be too tough.

But if that kind of organizing effort seems too cumbersome (which I can understand – again, taking it easy is important), there’s an even simpler option: Goodwill donation bins placed in dormitory lobbies. When I say put an option right in students’ faces, this is what I mean. If you can’t miss seeing the bin, and you realize that your old CD rack serves no point in the dump, odds are the rack is seeing a second life at Goodwill.

There are peripheral benefits to this option as well. For instance, this kind of outreach could have a good-guy rub-off effect for Northeastern. As our school still grapples with a surrounding community furious over our ever-expanding presence into area neighborhoods, this would be an olive branch to placate rising tempers. We could be community heroes – or at least the university equivalent of that weird uncle who’s annoying at family reunions but you still like, because he’s the only one to break $100 when writing you a birthday check.

But this shouldn’t be about the credit. And it really shouldn’t be that difficult. If anything, this idea is just common sense.

Right now, only a handful of on-campus residencies have donation bins, none of which are mandated by the university. Instead, individual students or hall councils must push to establish programs in their residence halls, said Darren Conine, president of the Resident Student Association (RSA). The problem with this is that as soon as that group leaves the hall, we’re starting from scratch. No program is in place for the incoming residents.

I spent the last couple of weeks contacting various offices to find out who would create a policy requiring donation bins, a policy with permanence.

Robert Jose, associate dean and director of the Department of Residence Life, promised to reply only to an e-mail interview, but never responded to repeated requests and follow-up phone messages. Meanwhile, the operators at Residence Life transferred me to Facilities who transferred me to Building Services, who had no idea what was going on or why I would call them (and rightfully so).

Conine told me RSA itself has never considered making the mandatory, university-wide, policy but in the past if a student approached RSA with the idea, they helped make it happen. But, he said, the idea to make the program last “hasn’t come up.”

In short, no one seems to know who would make and enforce such a policy, although a few of the offices listed above would be a good guess. And apparently, based on lack of response or action, no one in a position to make a permanent change cares enough to even consider the option. If that’s the case, maybe we’re all taking it a bit too easy. This is too important, and too obvious, to continue to overlook.

– Glenn Yoder can be reached at [email protected]

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