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Campus Clutter Breeds Discontent

Douglas E. Heimburger

Some things just irk me - but then there are the things that really irk me. I'm taking about things that start out being rather harmless but later turn out to be incredibly annoying.

Take the debris lying around the Institute, for example. I'm not talking about the construction sites that have plagued the east side of campus for the last three years, but the visual debris that litters the campus.

Walk down one of the lower-numbered buildings on MainCampus(not the Infinite Corridor), and one is barraged by an array of signs. While this isn't bad, it becomes increasingly annoying as one notes some of the signs. For example, I recently walked down the hall and found an LSC poster for some week back in 1994, an advertisement to come to The Tech's Spring 1996 open house, and some signs announcing fellowships for the fall of 1995.

These signs aren't the most annoying ones, though. The ones that are even more annoying are the ones that are screaming"TODAY" on the Infinite Corridor. I've often scanned the boards and found something Iliked - and then I discover that TODAYactually occurred yesterday, or weeks ago.

Most of the times, these "TODAYs" are marked in huge handwritten markers across the poster, indicating that someone walked down and noted where each of their posters are. Why didn't have these same people walk down the corridor after the event and remove their now-outdated posters or promotional announcements?

It's not a problem that extends just to posters.I walked down the Infinite Corridor yesterday and noticed the great announcement that there are "12 identical food stations located throughout the entire corridor" - obviously a sign from the Infinite Buffet, held over two months ago. Why wasn't this sign taken down weeks ago, especially considering that there never truly were 12 identical food stations even during the Infinite Buffet.

I'm sure that most people are thinking"yeah, what's the big deal. Some people leave posters out in the halls."But the problem is a much bigger deal than it appears at the surface.

An educational institution is much more than a common room for its students. It's also expected - especially in the case of the "elite" institutions like MIT -that the place at least look somewhat nice.

Now Iknow that the Institute doesn't currently have much standing on those issues, since, except in the newly renovated and built buildings, the interior of the Institute isn't appealing, especially in areas off the Infinite Corridor.

Yet this clutter, especially expired signs touting events that have long past, reinforce the image to some that the Institute is an organization living in the past. Let's face it:as we trundle towards the twenty-first century in our labs and research facilities, our common facilities still look as if they haven't been cleaned up in a decade, especially in the less-traveled corridors.

Even more, the presence of all these signs reveals that the reengineering of Physical Plant and other organizations hasn't truly improved the efficiency and the service of the groups. Physical Plant is exceedingly quick to remove posters and other material on approved Association of Student Activities postering facilities even before events occur, but it doesn't bother to remove the more annoying illegal signs displayed in violation of the postering guidelines.

You'd think that Physical Plant would have reorganized itself to actually take down things like this. But it seems that it may have more important things to do than taking posters down, such as making sure the floors are clean.

The most effective thing to happen would be for people to take down their posters after their events occur. But that's not always going to happen, since students don't always have time to make a run around campus to take down signs that should be taken down byPhysical Plant.

A far more effective strategy, then, given that people are going to leave their signs up, is for Physical Plant to remove more regularly all posters and signs placed up in defiance of established postering guidelines. Every university has established postering guidelines; by not removing posters, MITis one of the few not to rigidly enforce its guidelines.

Now, we as students could form vigilante bands to go out and take down all these posters, but with the level of apathy and focus on alcohol policy, it's highly unlikely that we'll see that occurrence anytime soon. After all, it is Physical Plant's job to keep the Institute clean in exchange for our $11,600 per term, and we should expect that it will at least get rid of outdated posters and current ones in the wrong places.