As students rush to leave campus at the end of the academic year, they are followed, at least in part, by a small but determined cohort of the District’s underprivileged, who take to dumpster diving to salvage what is left behind.
This reality is a vivid and unfortunate depiction of the contrast between the economic standing of the university and its students and the economic standing of much of the Washington, D.C. population. As a campus committed to helping those in need, it is embarrassing that students’ disregard for the value of items left behind has manifested itself in the form of the needy sifting through our garbage. The university should take a more active role in assuring that it is doing everything possible to bridge this socioeconomic divide.
The Office of Sustainability’s move-out drive is one existing program that collects fully functional items that are discarded in haste and donates them to charitable organizations. While the program has seen increased success this year, boasting its best-ever collection, it still receives little logistical or financial support from other university offices.
The drive is dependent upon the Office of Sustainability’s single paid employee and student volunteers who are compensated only with free late-stay housing. While the move-out drive is certainly within the jurisdiction of the Office of Sustainability, other offices — including facilities, housing and even the Center for Student Engagement — should have a vested interest in seeing the program expand and succeed in future years. Administrators should be conscious of how poorly it reflects upon the university that this opportunity to do good in the city is being so flagrantly squandered.
The success of the move-out drive is contingent upon student participation, which has often been hindered by the hectic nature of finals and move-out deadlines. These annual obstacles, however, are easily foreseen, and with more coordinated support, could be mitigated. If a more concerted and collaborative effort is made to increase awareness and convenience of the program, participation is sure to increase as well.
Under the Office of Sustainability, the move-out drive has taken strides in making sure the contents of students’ dorms do not go to waste. But so long as it is necessary for members of the larger Washington community to dumpster dive to find what is leftover, there is still more to be done.