By Carter Ottele

Dear Grinnell,

It’s time to get your shit together.

Look, in most ways, we’re doing fine. There are lots of little problems that don’t matter too much: our football team got outscored 6-116 over a two game stretch; NetNutrition lied to me; my econ prof failed half the class; artificial intelligence, global warming, and democratic decline are all threatening to render our degrees useless. But, whatever. I don’t care that much.

You know what really, really bothers me though? What totally ruins my day, or sometimes my week? Residence hall fines

It’s that feeling when I open my Outlook email to see that, because some idiot took a shit in a sink, the entire dorm has to pay $15 for “excessive cleanup fees.” Or that feeling when an aspiring romantic puts aluminum foil in the microwave to create “dorm fireworks,” leaving the rest of us with a $20 charge. Or when an anonymous figure throws a sofa (with first years sitting on it) through a glass door, and the RLC waterboards the residents until they admit that it was some dude named Chomsky.

Collective punishment is a big part of the problem here. I understand the theory behind it: if someone knows that the dorm will be punished for their actions, supposedly they’ll be discouraged. But that simply doesn’t happen. Never. Not once has someone been seconds away from stealing the exit sign, or from breaking beer bottles in the kitchen sink, or from pouring Elmer’s glue down the shower drain—then stopped and said, “Alas! I mustn’t force collective punishment upon my fellow denizens of the dormitory!” 

No, people don’t care. And when people don’t care, it means that everyone else gets pissed—not only with the student who mixed bleach and vinegar in the elevator, but with the administrative process that makes the rest of us pay for someone else’s stupidity. Like, you’re the ones who accepted these dumbasses into Grinnell; why don’t you pay for their damages?

I was inspired to write this column by a particularly enraging incident in Loose Hall. Apparently, someone left used tampons in the lounge. And instead of compensating us for the physical and emotional damage that this incident caused, Residence Life told us to pay for the cleanup.

I know, I’m a cis male. You might say that I don’t understand anything about the female anatomy. But I watched some YouTube videos, and I’m pretty sure I know what happened here: someone didn’t try hard enough. Some Loose woman Loosened her grip and let the tampons fall out, therefore exposing the rest of us to deadly pathogens. And yet, I have to fund the clean-up.

Of course, this isn’t meant to disparage FM workers, who put up with nasty college students every day. I totally understand why they deserve to be paid extra for Grinnell’s mistakes. To compensate the FM workers fairly, I have an alternative suggestion: install security cameras in every room, hallway, and bathroom of every dorm. Then, the burgeoning Film and Media Studies concentration can comb the footage to produce Big Brother Grinnell, a reality TV show that spotlights Grinnell students. Profits can go to Facilities Management.

People aren’t afraid of collective punishment. But I’m 100% confident that they’ll be afraid of international notoriety. The mysterious student who has been constructing a Slip-N’-Slide in the hallway with 40 cans of lima beans will have to face a reckoning: Will they continue and risk being broadcast in 160 countries? Or will they put an end to their behavior? If they choose the latter, Grinnell may finally know peace.