According to the Merriam-Webster online dictionary, Halloween is defined as “the night of October 31 when children dress up as ghosts, witches, monsters, etc., and go to houses to ask for candy.” A marginally less reliable source, Urban Dictionary, defines Halloween as an annual excuse for girls to dress promiscuously and get away with it. The idea of dressing up for Halloween has followed students from first grade, when they begged their parents to create the most original costume, to college when a group of girls put on oversized t-shirts and call it a day. While both definitions include the idea of dressing up, what isn’t mentioned is strewing the immediate surroundings with trash.
While UW-Madison is famous across the country for its annual Halloween celebration starting the weekend before Halloween, what gets most overlooked are the after-effects on the campus. When googling “who picks up trash on University of Wisconsin-Madison campus?” the results give links to the City of Madison Streets & Recycling Department. But these hardworking men and women can’t be solely counted upon to clean up after the students.
Beer cans, solo cups, beer bottles, liquor handles, cardboard boxes, cat ears, dirty condoms, women’s sanitary products, pizza boxes, McDonald’s takeout bags and ripped Halloween costumes—all are items I saw on the ground on my short walk from Regent Street to University Avenue. And while I understand that our school’s unofficial motto is “work hard, party harder,” I can’t help but feel like cleaning up after your party is something missing from the students’ slogan.
“Halloween is a time to have fun, but you also have to be responsible about what you’re doing from the second you pick up a cup to when you put it down,” said junior Ellie Schu. She said that if students want to have people come and visit, both students and the visitors are responsible for leaving campus clean and not leaving trash everywhere. Many of these people, however, are so busy having the time of their lives that they don’t think about the impact they’re having on the beautiful city. It’s important to keep in mind that you should be conscious of the impact of tossing your cup on the ground every weekend on campus, not just Halloween weekend.
When visitors come to UW-Madison, they are shown views of one the most beautiful and iconic American college campuses. Given the traditions the campus follows every weekend, guests are given experiences that will last a lifetime. But leaving on Sunday morning, the last image they are given of our campus is one of dirty streets filled with the remnants of a party.
I am not expecting students to pass around trash bags to every party guest and request them to clean the around the spot they are standing. And there is no need to set an alarm to begin the cleaning process at 6 a.m. the next morning. We’ve all been there—we’d rather have people throw their trash anywhere than litter in our apartment, but that always seems to translate to people discarding their waste outside on the streets of our campus.
It’s important that the students of UW-Madison remember to be respectful to the space they are in. If we want to keep our ranking as a beautiful campus, we need to keep our party essentials in the trash, not on the ground.
Lilly is a junior majoring in journalism. Please send all comments, questions or thoughts to firstname.lastname@example.org.