It’s official: H1N1 has arrived at Yale, and with it have come hundreds of reminders from the Yale community about how to protect ourselves.
One significant message is the admonition to wash our hands. The Yale Center for Public Health Preparedness, Center for Disease Control, World Health Organization and the Connecticut Department of Public Health all strongly encourage the simple act of washing hands as a way to prevent the spread of flu. This then begs us to ask: Why has Yale failed to provide its students with paper towels in residential college bathrooms?
It seems obvious (in fact, I feel somewhat ashamed that our esteemed institution should get a failing grade in Public Hygiene 101) that if Yale wants its students to practice good bathroom hygiene, the University would provide us with a fully equipped bathroom. The mixed signals are puzzling: The administration is ready to place me in lockdown, but they won’t give me a paper towel.
H1N1 is a virus that everyone should take seriously, especially since a vaccine is currently unavailable and our close-proximity living conditions create a vulnerable environment. The University is taking numerous precautions to protect us — as it should — but if every e-mail, flyer, announcement and greeting tells us to wash our hands and cover our mouths, why haven’t we been given paper towels?
If this is a green issue (and I certainly understand that paper towels can be wasted), Yale should consider installing automatic hand dryers. If it is a cost issue, then reallocate some of the paper towels reserved for the basement bathrooms (which aren’t in such heavy demand) to residential college bathrooms.
Admittedly, paper towels aren’t necessary for hand washing, but they certainly encourage it. How many of us have watched in disgust as individuals have walked out of the bathroom without giving the sink or their hands a second look? Most students resort to using their clothes as drying mechanisms: the same shirt sleeve into which they cough early in the day they use to dry their washed hands later on. So much for germ containment.
Students should not be expected to carry around their own paper towels or rely upon someone placing a community towel in the bathrooms (been there, done that — nobody ever washes that thing). If Yale is serious about helping us stay healthy, its bathrooms should come equipped with some method for drying hands. I am not alone in feeling this way: fellow students, parents and health officials agree with me.
You’re given paper towels or hand dryers at the most modest of gas stations, stores and restaurants, as well as at our peer institutions, including Princeton and Harvard. The last time I checked, our lack of paper towels didn’t make Yale any greener or less expensive than those schools.
For anyone who is not in the habit of drying their hands, adding paper towels will probably have a positive effect. For the rest of us, those who are in the habit, I ask you, Yale: At the height of this epidemic, please do the right thing.
Lindsey Jackson is a senior in Calhoun College.