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David Sheffield '11: URIN 0100: Introduction to waste disposal

Etiquette, especially that at universities, has slowly declined over the years. Academic regalia has been confined to commencement rather than required attire year round and people will give you funny looks for showing up for dinner in a dinner jacket rather than for arriving without one. It is generally a good thing to discard these old norms. Wearing white after Labor Day hurts no one and holding the door for ladies is unnecessary and patronizing.

But some customs deserve to be kept. It seems that one very nice practice is being discarded far too often. Maybe "discarded" presumes too much. It could be that this wonderful custom was never followed at Brown. However, like many forms of etiquette it does not really matter — pretend it is true and adhere to it. Simply put, don't piss on the toilet seats.

Yes, college is a time to push boundaries and expand the world we live in, but this is a world best left unexplored. There are certain pillars of society that are best left intact, and not urinating where people sit is undoubtedly one of them. If you want to experiment, try drugs or have orgies, just keep the urine where it belongs.

If this were only about drunks too inebriated to properly use a restroom, things would be much simpler. Those deviants still would be a blight on society, but this is college and one has to allow for the inebriates now and then. However, being such poorly coordinated people during the middle of the day means one of two things: either we lack simple decency or we have a drinking problem.

Every time I see someone's golden puddle I cannot help but think of George Costanza's exclamation, "You know, we're living in a society!" Fine, civilization may not crumble and Brown's accreditation may not be revoked, but there is more to a great society than basic necessities. Think of the lessons of Rome and Greece. Good societies thrive on art, science and a good system for disposing human waste. You could live in a society without those essentials, but who would choose to?

Leaving restrooms in a state that would not make Miss Manners faint (followed by a formal thank-you letter for catching her) is not a difficult task. I would expect Brown students, so competent and wise, to have figured this out long ago. Perhaps the Office of Admission should dig deeper into applicants' histories and require next year's batch of pre-frosh to present their preschool transcripts as well. Every accepted student should have received at least a satisfactory mark for potty training. I'm sure those who do not make the new cut will feel at home attending Dartmouth.

This is not the only case of disregard for cleanliness on campus. Earlier this year, Deniz Ilgen '13 discussed garbage and vandalism in residence halls ("Brown: clean campus?" Sept. 8). However, to me at least, libertarian urination is a bit more inconvenient than lazily discarded cans of beer. Vandalized "EXIT" signs and other fixtures actually cost money to remedy, but urine-free fixtures are priceless.

I am sorry to simply complain without any good solutions. Unfortunately, this problem requires everyone to make an effort. Nonetheless, there are bad solutions.

One option is to electrify all of the toilet seats. Supply enough voltage and people will think twice about their actions. The drunks might initially be careless, but if lab rats can learn to avoid a shock, so can inebriated college students. Obviously, this presents a bit of a problem for other uses of the toilet seats. I am sure we could get the School of Engineering to come up with an elegant solution. This can safely go under the "excellent, so long as they don't put it in my dorm" folder.

Bathroom attendants could also be effective. Nothing keeps one behaving well like someone standing right by you (albeit behind a partition) during some of your most intimate moments. Unfortunately, this would just embolden those decrying Brown, Inc. Attendants in each restroom would be far too decadent for them — they'd probably want that money going toward educating poor people.

Brown's ACLU chapter and Brown Students for Liberty might also take issue with this invasion of privacy. But in the war against the uncivilized, we must all make sacrifices. At least the creation of many new unionized restroom attendant jobs would attract the support of the Brown Student Labor Alliance.

I'm afraid the only good advice I have is to lift the seat or to sit down with some spatial awareness. For those of you who are still resistant, there will be plenty of white snow by the end of the winter with no signatures to whom it may be attributed. Get some practice before coming indoors.

Finally, to all of you considerate people, just think: Every time your urine flies straight and true, you are making Brown a better place.

David Sheffield '11 is a math-physics concentrator from New Jersey with sufficient coordination. He can be contacted at


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