OPINION | Tulane community must play role in community cleanup

Rachel Kelly, Contributing Columnist

Sidewalks around campus are riddled with garbage, but are Tulane students doing their part to clean up their mess? (Will Embree)

Uptown New Orleans offers many sites and areas that locals and tourists cherish. Some of the major attractions are Audubon Park, Tulane University and Loyola University campuses, houses on St. Charles Avenue and small businesses in the neighborhoods. However, one cannot help but notice one apparent eyesore seen specifically around Tulane’s campus: the overwhelming amount of trash on the streets. 

It is difficult to maneuver around the overflowing trash cans and debris on the sidewalk when walking down Broadway Street, which many may consider Tulane University’s most heavily populated and trafficked off-campus street. Unfortunately, the problem does not improve on the side streets, where litter has become just a part of the neighborhood’s college charm. 

When hearing students talk about the trash and debris, some may reference the trash strike, which began in May 2020 when 26 trash hoppers refused to work for Metro Disposal, a privately owned company contracted by the city for waste management. 

Some strikers eventually returned to their jobs, but trash pickup in some city areas remained sporadic. However, Metro Disposal only services the areas north of Interstate 10. Richardson Disposal, New Orleans’ second waste service company, services the area south of I-10, where Tulane’s campus is located. This information implies the trash strike cannot be the scapegoat for the trash problem around student housing, but what about Hurricane Ida? 

As Ida approached in late August, Mayor LaToya Cantrell assured the city was “absolutely prepared for active trash collections.” Because Ida left some areas of New Orleans without electricity, gasoline and groceries for weeks, trash and debris collection was just one of the many responsibilities the city had to tend to. 

Residents of Uptown New Orleans did not see their trash get picked up for weeks after the storm. Eventually, pickups became more consistent as the storm aftermath subsided, although some may still be waiting weeks for their trash to get picked up only because it is not taken out correctly. Some examples of this are the trash cans are not positioned correctly on the curb so the trucks can reach it, or bins may be overflowing or surrounded by more trash bags. 

Regardless of the reason for excess trash, students should attempt to follow the school guidelines to ensure their garbage is getting picked up or to store excess waste in a more discrete location than the curb to help the neighborhood look presentable. 

In Tulane’s Off Campus Living Guide, the “Trash and Recycling” section includes a set of rules that inform students how to sort their trash and asserts that trash should not extend to the curb or bleed into public areas. Further, it informs off-campus students what obligations landlords have in their tenants’ trash pickup.  

The issue likely persists because students are either not aware of the rules or do not care enough to follow them. Although Tulane provides general trash and recycling rules in its guide, the school has not sent any emails encouraging students to follow these rules, despite them obviously being broken. 

The disregard for trash around campus is particularly regrettable considering Tulane’s dedication to connecting with the local New Orleans community, primarily through its service learning requirement. This requirement was fully integrated into the core curriculum after Hurricane Katrina flooded the city, leaving many homes and businesses destroyed. 

Since the requirement has been integrated, Tulane continues to cite how the goal of the service learning requirement is to engage with and assist the community, or as Scott Cowen wrote, “a dynamic effort to expand our civic mission.” If Tulane is this dedicated to improving the New Orleans community, why has the administration not contacted the students about an issue that directly impacts the neighborhood Tulane is located in? 

Of Tulane students, 83.51% come from out of state, so the majority of students only spend four years in New Orleans while attending college. They may not feel that keeping their college house clean is a top priority. 

Making an effort to keep houses looking presentable and following the school’s trash rules adds one more responsibility to the many that off campus students already have, but New Orleans residents that live in student-saturated areas deserve the respect of not battling smelly, overflowing trash cans as they walk through their neighborhood.

Even though most students are temporary residents, it is still our responsibility to respect the rules and other people where we live.