As students returned to the University for the start of the fall semester, they were greeted by a new reality — no paper towels or air purifiers in their dorms.
The Department of Facilities Management did not respond to requests for comment on the removals.
For Jonathan Green ’25, the new change sparked confusion.
“I noticed that the bathrooms didn’t have any paper towels … but I thought it was just a problem with our floor,” he said in an interview with The Herald. “(When I was) going to other floors and other people’s dorms, I realized that (the University) had removed all of the paper towels.”
“I was annoyed and a little angry,” he said. “I just didn’t really understand the point of the decision.”
Aidan Blain ’25 explained that it actually took a little while for him to notice that the paper towels were missing.
“You just kind of assume that when you come back (to campus), things are going to be the same,” he said. “As you go to the bathroom more and more times, you’re like ‘where are the paper towels?’”
According to Green and Blain, the only available alternative left in their respective bathrooms were low quality hand dryers.
“My biggest problem is the fact that the hand dryers that we have in the bathroom don’t work,” Green said. “They don’t dry your hands … and I think the biggest implication is a decrease in student hygiene.”
“If you’re not going to have paper towels, at least spend some money on good hand dryers,” Blain said. “Don’t (remove) paper towels and also have hand dryers that don’t work.”
While Green noted that the paper towels can cause the garbage cans to overflow, he explained that removing the paper towels entirely doesn’t address the issue of cleanliness.
“Now the bathroom is just messy in another way in that it’s just soaking wet everywhere,” he said. “It replaced one problem with another.”
“It’s incredibly inconvenient and not hygienic either,” he added, noting that now, “there’s no way to clean up after yourself.”
Green also cited the potential concerns surrounding accessibility given the recent change in on-campus bathrooms.
“If you want to dry your hands, you’re gonna have to spend money on paper towels, which not all students can afford to do,” he said. “That’s not fair either.”
Blain summarized his thoughts on the recent change, noting that “my jeans have effectively become the new paper towel.”
Air purifiers have also disappeared from University dormitories.
While walking through campus in July, Christopher Vanderpool ’24 stumbled upon an unexpected scene: dozens of air purifiers in a dumpster.
“That was my first (piece of) knowledge that we probably weren’t going to have air purifiers again,” he said, adding that he “expected some sort of communication from the University.”
Vanderpool noted that, in his opinion, the air purifiers contributed to community health and safety for students living on campus.
The air purifier "kept the room feeling a little fresher, and I knew there was clean air coming out of it,” he said. “There are still people who are immunocompromised who take a lot of precautions when it comes to COVID, and I think the air purifiers are an important tool for people to feel as comfortable and safe as possible.”
Blain similarly described the absence of air purifiers as “strange,” adding that there should be an opt-in system available for students who would prefer having one in their on-campus housing unit.
“I’m sure there are some people who are still concerned about COVID and want clean air in their rooms,” he said.
After discovering that the air purifiers had been thrown away, Vanderpool recalled reflecting on the University’s manner of disposing of them.
“I think there’s a better way to dispose (of) electronics, especially air purifiers,” he said. “I don’t think the proper way is to just toss them away in the dumpster like that.”
Overall, Blain said the disposal of air purifiers was “wasteful.”
“If you’re going to remove the option for Brown students to have them, I’m sure that there are people in the wider Providence community who could make use of the air purifiers,” he said.
Aniyah Nelson is a University News editor overseeing the undergraduate student life beat. She is a junior from Cleveland, Ohio concentrating in political science and sociology. In her free time, she enjoys listening to music and watching bloopers from The Office.