This year I had the immense privilege of living on the Upper Row. In theory, it’s quite nice: My house is in the (tragically small) heart of the campus social scene, is endowed with the resources and size conducive to fostering community and is staffed by a chef who feeds us heartily, albeit only 10 times a week.
In reality, however, Row living is what you make of it — and what others make it for you. The quality of life in a Row house, beyond its intrinsic benefits, is also shaped by the people living there. It is shaped by how much respect we show toward our physical house, how we treat communal resources and, transitively, how we treat fellow residents. Human factors can make or break Row living. And at certain points this year, human factors broke my Row experience — although not beyond repair.
To begin, some highlights from my house: This year, I’ve seen vomit in the bathroom sink where I was about to brush my teeth. I’ve seen the post-weekend kitchen look as though a tornado ripped through it: overflowing trash bins, congealed food on all surfaces, garbage on the floor and food left out, ant-infested and putrefying. Such disheartening encounters are not unique to my house. Having visited other self-ops and having heard cautionary tales about the shocking dis-hygiene of co-ops — where the combination of no janitorial staff, busy residents, collegiate debauchery and disregard does not make for the cleanest of environments — it seems that a degree of filth is part and parcel of Row living.
However, this way of living is not a way of living at all. It is rude, wasteful and, frankly, uncivilized. Though these are harsh words, they are apt to the disrespectful and dignity-denying manner in which Row residents treat each other and janitorial staff when we abuse our shared resources and communal spaces. The way we behave when no one is watching speaks to the basic regard, or lack thereof, we afford the people who end up having to clean up behind us, whether that be a fellow student hasher or the housekeeping staff whose dignity is surely being tested when, for instance, they are made to pick up our days-old plates from bathroom stalls or to scrape congealed leftovers off of tables and cutlery.
The ubiquity of unsanitary conditions on the Row inclines us to normalize them and shrug them off as an inevitability of being at college. In this vein, some might find my devoting an article to the topic overly righteous, or somehow frivolous. But we must remember that being young and busy Stanford students is no license to absolve ourselves of all standards of care towards shared property and to other people’s time. On the contrary, if one general aim of a good university experience is to teach respectful and fruitful co-existence with an array of people, then upholding clean residences is surely the simplest realization of this aim. From the kitchenette of your frosh dorm to your senior year’s Tier 1 lounge, doing little things right — with respect and self-awareness — will allow you to do the big things right.
To fellow and future Row residents, therefore, I ask that you recognize the privilege we have in having our houses, and in doing so don’t indulge in privileged behavior.
Contact Megha Parwani at mparwani ‘at’ stanford.edu.