Pop quiz: Ben, Paul, Sue and Mary are all living together in a campus apartment/house. They all use a shared bathroom, but sometimes it gets very messy. They should…
A) clean up after themselves and create a weekly chore chart.
B ) wait until there is enough grime that walking is difficult.
C) give up on the bathroom and use it as a trash can.
D) decide that they will wait for the bathroom to magically get cleaned.
I bet you picked A. (Please pick A.) A is the right answer, and I think that most know that, but knowing and doing are two different things. As a Community Advisor (CA) and apartment resident, I have heard horror stories from CAs and custodial staff alike about the messes that plague shared bathrooms. Kenyon students, particularly those in independent living (apartments), should work to develop their own cleaning habits rather than relying solely upon custodians to fix their messes.
I would like to preemptively respond to two of the responses I expect this opinion to receive. The first and easiest to respond to is a variation of “Wait what? Apartments and houses on campus get cleaned for students?” Although this is a well-known fact to those living in apartments, the litany of jobs performed by the phenomenal Kenyon Maintenance Department are not advertised on the Kenyon website and might not be known to students living in dorms. In addition to all of the work the department does to maintain the whole campus, they also clean most apartment bathrooms weekly and the North Campus Apartment (NCA) bathrooms monthly.
Now that everyone knows the basics, I would like to address the inevitable argument that students should not have to change their habits because “that is the custodians’ job.” While custodians do clean students’ bathrooms as a part of their job on campus, there is a fundamental difference between wiping down a sink top and having to collect a bathroom’s littered contents into trash bags. While cleaning certain bathrooms, custodians are being asked to perform tasks well outside of their job descriptions. Examples of some of the messes custodians have cleaned include but are not limited to scraping toothpaste from sinks and dried beer from floors.
Cleaning is hard. Last year it took me three weeks to get through the task of putting my laundry in the washer, dryer and then the proper locations. I spent 30 minutes putting a t-shirt away because I got sidetracked four times on my way to the drawer. All of this is to say that, as strongly as I believe that cleaning is necessary, I know with even more certainty that it can be difficult, especially if you are working through mental, physical or general health challenges. Despite these difficulties, students should still attempt some level of cleaning when they are able.
College allows for the transition into adulthood, and essential to this transition is learning to respect yourself and your surroundings enough to maintain an inhabitable house. During this transition, it is likely beneficial for students to have custodians helping to maintain spaces by cleaning them. But students should not forgo all responsibility for their own living spaces. Custodians cleaning should not preclude students from also cleaning up; it should encourage students to keep their housing in a vaguely respectable state — if not for themselves, then for the Kenyon staff who regularly work to make our lives better.
As much as we would like to stave off some of the more brutal components of adult life, this is the time to finally learn that you do in fact need to clean the toilet bowl and the sink, and that you don’t use the same tool for both.
Hannah Sussman ’25 is the opinions editor at the Collegian. She is a sociology major from Glencoe, Illinois. She can be reached at email@example.com.