Section: Opinion

Plastic cups are a necessary provision

AVI and student body must both think sustainably

If you have recently been to Peirce Hall, you have most likely noticed the dearth of plastic cups available in the servery. Blame for this almost certainly lies with students who take cups out of the servery and never bring them back. As a result, Student Council is considering drastic action; nestled between minutiae of student group funding and party policy rules in its latest minutes was one ominous line that seems to have flown under the radar: “Getting rid of cups next year, this is something the College has to agree on — we will plan to meet with [Manager of Business Services] Fred Linger to discuss.”

It’s understandable why, in the face of concerns about sustainability and the recurring Peirce cup shortage, Council would turn to removing cups from the servery entirely. But from my point of view, such measures are excessively drastic and demonstrate students are considering the issue the wrong way. Cups are not a privilege students earn with good behavior; they are a basic necessity for any college cafeteria.

Much of the discourse over the cup shortage attempts to present the deficit as a matter of ethics: because we are acting immorally in taking cups out of the dining hall and not returning them, we do not deserve access to them. I am not defending students who take cups. If you have a hoard of plastic cups stowed away in your room or apartment kitchen, listen up: You are stealing and this is wrong. You are making the lives of your fellow students harder, and after you put down this paper, you ought to return your stash to Peirce at your earliest convenience. But its unfair for students who don’t take cups out of the dining hall, or who have been dutifully putting their Pepsi in reusable water bottles for the past couple weeks, to be punished for the laziness of their peers.

Like it or not, Peirce is not a socialist commune. The meal plan is a service that most students attending Kenyon full-time are required to pay for. As the only dining hall on campus, Peirce has no competition. The Kenyon community should demand Peirce adhere to some basic standards, and in my view, providing cups for drinks should be one of them.

Students also need to consider sustainability. It’s apparent that the tremendous waste paper cups isn’t acceptable, and needs to be curtailed. Though removing paper cups entirely would indeed solve the issue, it would also inconvenience those who want to enjoy hot beverages such as tea or coffee. Encouraging the use of reusable containers through means such as the Sustain-a-Mug program is all well and good, but the fact is the shortage of plastic cups spurs reliance on paper ones. Kenyon should offer a sustainable and adequate dining experience, and for this to happen AVI needs to commit to maintaining a reasonable supply of plastic cups.

Toby Baumann ’19  is a religious studies major from Mount Vernon, Ohio. Contact him at


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