The official student newspaper of Lower Merion High School since 1929

The Merionite

The official student newspaper of Lower Merion High School since 1929

The Merionite

The official student newspaper of Lower Merion High School since 1929

The Merionite

Clean up your act

Saler investigates the effects of entitlement on the widespread expectation at LM that the custodial staff should clean up any and everything left behind by students.
Graphic by Joyce Wu ’26

Ever since kindergarten, we, as LMSD students, have been taught basic and simple etiquette: always raise your hand when you’d like to speak, put your maximum amount of effort into school-work, treat your peers with kindness and more. We have also been primed by parents, teachers, and guardians to implement “proper” manners in our everyday lives. Though all of these behaviors are still expected of us, some students blatantly ignore basic etiquette when it comes to cleaning up after themselves? The answer to this question has become abundantly clear: students are ignorant to the impacts of our poor behavior on the custodial staff due to a culture of entitlement at LM. 

Every school year, students enjoy new MacBooks, over full libraries, stocked classroom supplies, and a wide variety of other materials at our disposal. We not only continuously receive these luxuries, but we subconsciously expect to have them. We expect our computers to work seamlessly, teachers to have ample amounts of supplies, and the library to have a plethora of books, the same way we expect to be cleaned up after. 

This kind of behavior translates directly to the school’s custodians. Day after day, I walk around the school and see empty trays on the floor after lunch, fragments of food on the workspace tables, and furniture carelessly left out of place. After lunch, some areas around campus look close to a war zone with all that is left over. The presence of litter throughout the entire school after lunch which, in turn, creates excessive work for the custodians. Aside from lunch, I have seen liquids on the floor without students making a visible effort to clean it up. These events all suggest that within all of the luxuries we receive, the expectation of being cleaned up after is one of them. 

The custodians are part of the operational department of LM. The responsibilities listed in their job description is as follows: management/main-tenance of buildings, maintenance of utility and energy management systems, monitoring environmental issues (air quality, water, etc.), asbestos abatement, landscape construction, repairs due to vandalism, trash removal, hazardous waste disposal, snow removal, building and site security, preventive and corrective maintenance, safety/maintenance inspections, planning/scheduling new construction and renovations, warehousing inventory; emergency/disaster planning, maintaining fire protection systems, pest control, and maintaining a five-year maintenance plan and annual operating budget. Now I ask, where in that list does it mention cleaning up unnecessary mounds of trash left by a student? It doesn’t. Put shortly, the expectation that the custodial staff will clean up all of our messes has enabled us to be less cognizant of our actions.

The school is a large space with hundreds of people occupying it everyday. We should show the same respect and care to our facilities and staff that we would in our own homes. How would you feel if someone had gone into your room and left all of their empty dishes, napkins, and food scattered everywhere? Furthermore, how would you feel if more people had come into your room and started throwing food and water bottles in your space? Would you feel that they were entitled to do so, or would you be tempted to completely lose your temper? My guess is the second option. No doubt, these same thoughts have crossed the minds of many custodial staff members, yet they are expected to continuously clean up all of the items left in a space much bigger than our bedrooms.

We are extremely privileged to be in a school district that has the means to invest heavily in our education and wellbeing. Yet, our actions do not in any way reflect the appreciation we should have, especially towards the school’s Custodial Department. With that, I urge students to have a little more perspective beyond LM. Just twenty minutes east of our school is the Philadelphia School District. It is currently operating under a $407 million deficit in funding for essential educational resources and facility maintenance of the 217 schools within the district. Conversely, LMSD’s 2023-24 spending budget is over $320 million, 30% of which is going to special operations which includes custodial services. This massive budget allows us to have an outstanding education in a well-maintained environment. The next time you contemplate leaving a tray full of chicken tenders on the floor or throwing food at your friends, remember who your actions are impacting the most. Remember what you learned in kindergarten, and clean up after yourself.

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