We are Earning our Furniture, but is it for the Right Reasons?
“Can someone take the video?”
Since the Earn Your Furniture (EYF) program began, these words have become all too familiar. While the program was met with mixed reactions at first, most agree that the program has been successful in making the Student Center cleaner. However, the question still looms whether the cleanliness of the student center is a result of fear of losing furniture or a real cultural change in the way we think about and treat our shared spaces.
As EYF was announced and set into action, there was skepticism from students and faculty alike. “I wasn’t sure how effective it would be, but I understood why it was put in place,” said Lea Wong (‘22)
Similarly, James Harley (‘22) was not sure every student would be involved in cleaning up: “I didn’t think that many people would be willing to do it, and it would only be a handful of people cleaning each time.”
This skepticism was not limited to these two students. In light of the lukewarm reception, Tory Lacy, the faculty leader of the program, said the Student Center Committee “made as much of an effort as [they] could to engage whoever was interested.” It was important to the committee to be flexible and ensure the community felt heard: “I don’t think there has been a situation where I have ignored specific feedback, if it was workable,” added Mr. Lacy.
As the community adjusted to the program, the complaints subsided and the Student Center began to get cleaner. James has found that EYF has cleaned common areas “a little better than what I thought, as time has gone on.”
Mr. Lacy has also seen significant improvement in cleanliness: “[After the program began], I started noticing that it was getting cleaner in the Student Center. I would walk out and before any of the night crew had come to start cleaning, and it looked pretty good and way better than it used to.”
However, just because the Student Center has gotten cleaner, does not mean that EYF has been entirely successful. According to Mr. Lacy, another goal of EYF to change students’ w motivation behind cleaning: “I think [EYF] is translating into cleaning. Whether it is translating into cleaning for the right reasons, that I am less sure about. What we don’t want is people cleaning only to keep their furniture. I think that’s the trick of it, is that, ultimately, it should be about cleaning because you should take responsibility for what you do.”
Lea has also seen a disconnect between action and rationale in many of her peers. “For some people, it’s [cleaning] for the right reasons and for some people it isn’t,” said Lea. “Some people are sending in videos because they don’t want to be shamed by their grade, while other people genuinely feel that it is disrespectful to have the staff clean up after us.”
As the community looks forward to the coming year, they can also look forward to EYF’s continuation. “I wouldn’t feel comfortable getting rid of the system and hoping we would retain the gains,” said Mr. Lacy. “I think we will probably need to keep it.”
Mr. Lacy understands that EYF has an importance that goes well beyond just having a cleaner student center: “It may seem like a small thing but buried in it such an important message that in order to be a responsible member of any community… you share the responsibilities of what it means to be in that space and in that community.”