OPINION | Want not, waste a lot: Tulane students need to check their privilege

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Daisy Rymer | Production Manager

Tulane students have no trouble heedlessly discarding expensive items

Lily Lazarus, Views Editor

Last spring, when the majority of the Tulane body evacuated due to COVID-19, the financial insensitivity of the student body was openly displayed around campus. Sophomores threw their lightly used futons, rugs and bedding off of the Phelps and Irby Residence Hall balconies into the dumpsters below. In their eyes, the hassle of finding someone willing to take it off their hands was far more difficult because they could just dump and then repurchase the item later on down the road. As students passed by the graveyard of perfectly suitable furniture, they remained unfazed by this exhibition of privilege.

In a city where almost 25% of the population lives in poverty, these seemingly useless items are a luxury. The same students who so haphazardly discarded their clutter are likely more than adequately educated on how they could have used them to benefit the community they rely on for both their education and their college experience. A simple post on the Tulane Classifieds or Facebook Marketplace offering up their belongings was apparently too much to ask during such “unprecedented times.”  

The administration has continuously reminded students of the means through which they can volunteer in the New Orleans community. At the end of each school year, they allow students to donate unwanted goods to be recycled and reused by others in the community. Tulane prides itself on the Outreach Tulane program which boasts of providing students with the ability to give back to New Orleans. On top of that, students are required to complete two service learning courses prior to graduation. Yet, when New Orleans faced a global pandemic and the livelihoods of hundreds of Tulane employees were inherently threatened, this philanthropic rhetoric was nowhere to be found. 

While it is partially understandable that in the chaos of evacuating campus, a process in which students were given over seven days notice of their duty to return home, they forgot their moral responsibility to those in need, this excuse neglects the recurrence of such overt acts of privilege since returning to campus. In particular, the neverending satire revolving around hurricane provisions is incredibly troubling. 

Prior to Tropical Storm Marco and Hurricane Laura, Sodexo employees worked tirelessly to pack hurricane provisions for on-campus students. In these brown paper bags were an entire loaf of bread, peanut butter and an assortment of other nonperishable food goods meant to last students at least 72 hours. Instead of thanking the staff members who took time to ensure the wellbeing of the student body while also having to prepare themselves for the storms, Tulane students uploaded TikToks of their meals voicing their annoyance with the non-gourmet food items

Although many of these students may not realize the privilege such jokes exude, the underlying tone is unforgettable. Tulane students have access to more than enough drinking water and nonperishables in the case of an emergency but still feel entitled to more. In contrast, 23% of New Orleanians are food insecure. The same meals that Tulane students mock are items that almost a quarter of city residents cannot access on a regular basis. 

Students participated in the same insensitive actions during Hurricane Sally and many on-campus students threw out their hurricane rations or simply left them to spoil in common areas or dorm rooms. Inside of the entryways of many residence halls, piles of unwanted, perfectly good food could be seen waiting to be taken. 

Instead of providing students with outlets for donating the leftovers to local food banks or other organizations, the university was silent. At the same time, on-campus residents yet again refrained from researching possible solutions to their unwanted rations despite having access to such information. 

As Tulane students continue to use New Orleans as their collegiate stomping grounds, they must stop and think about the privilege they hold simply by attending their university. The rose-colored glasses that tint Tulane’s campus with ignorance fail to show the vast insecurities present just a stone’s throw from the university.  If students have the time to benefit from New Orleans, they have time to recognize their privilege and give back to the community they have decided to call home for four years.