We need paper towels in bathrooms on Commons. Our only option is to use questionable hand dryers that release a stream of air only slightly more powerful than that of a senior citizen blowing out birthday candles. Vanderbilt must act swiftly and place paper towel dispensers in every bathroom on Commons.
“Paper Towelgate”, the lack of paper towel dispensers in dorms on Commons, Vanderbilt’s first-year living program, must be addressed now. One does not realize how useful paper towels are until they are missing when you need them most. Any small spill or any time a towel is forgotten when hands or a face are washed, students on Commons are forced to make the embarrassing walk back to their room to get a towel.
Hand dryers have been criticized for spewing bathroom germs back onto the user’s hands. According to a recent study, in lab settings, hand dryers were shown to facilitate the growth of bacteria in petri dishes. Personally, I wash my hands in the hopes of making them clean, so the idea of having bacteria sprayed onto my hands every time I use the restroom is rather off-putting.
Hygiene is important everywhere, but it is especially important in first-year college dorms, such as those on Commons. With hundreds of students from different places all using the same facilities and spending time with each other almost every day, proper hand washing is a first-year student’s best defense from sickness. According to a study from the Mayo Clinic Proceedings journal,“paper towels can dry hands efficiently, remove bacteria effectively, and cause less contamination of the washroom environment. From a hygiene viewpoint, paper towels are superior to electric air dryers. Paper towels should be recommended in locations where hygiene is paramount…”
Personally, I am afraid that the poor hand dryers found in bathrooms on Commons could facilitate the passage of illnesses from student to student. Maybe hand dryers are to blame for “Commons Plague,” the yearly round of sickness that affects many first-year students at Vanderbilt. So the question remains: Is Vanderbilt potentially compromising our health?
I can only assume that Vanderbilt’s hand dryer woes are the result of their continued efforts to make our campus greener by reducing paper product waste. While I wholeheartedly agree with this mission and respect Vanderbilt’s moves to decrease waste where they can, I still cannot reconcile their choice to not place paper towels in dorms on Commons.
Paper towels can actually be helpful for the environment if disposed of properly. Although they cannot be recycled, they can be composted. Stanford Health Magazine notes that “the bacteria or food on them will break down during the composting process. If an airport, public building or school already has a composting program, it should not be too much trouble to place collecting bins in restrooms.” If Vanderbilt were to introduce receptacles for disposal that could later allow paper towels to be composted in the already existing composting program in the Commons dining hall, we could minimize the wastefulness of the towels, and even minimize the energy usage required to power the hand dryers (even if they are barely powered).
Upon moving into Commons, it will become almost immediately apparent that “Paper Towelgate” must be solved. I am calling for immediate introduction of hand towel dispensers in every bathroom in every dorm on Commons, with an appropriately labeled composting receptacle to go with it. No longer should students on Commons suffer with inadequate hand dryers. Every day that we are silent is another day that no action is taken, and another one of our fellow first-years could be exposed to potentially dangerous bacteria.
The time for justice in the form of paper towels is now.