Several days ago, someone uploaded a meme poking fun at the poor quality of service provided by the Yale Station Post Office on the Facebook group Overheard at Yale. The meme compared the experience at Yale Station to frustrating dealings with the sloth from “Zootopia,” aiming to convey the sluggishness and apathy of Yale postal workers. Although funny, the meme’s jocularity belied an important sentiment: The societal necessity of well-functioning institutions. In a world built upon ever-increasing complexity and with personal atomization becoming increasingly prevalent, it is both crucial and natural to expect jobs to be done correctly.
Here at Yale, well-running institutions also fill an important role in creating a positive campus culture. It seems that on an institutional level, services like the post office do not run as intended. The indifference of postal workers only serves to perpetuate a sense among the student body that the post office is ineffective. This putatively results in even worse service due to a lack of respect and perceived, or real, hostility. This vicious cycle would just continue on forever, resulting in further unproductivity — both in discourse and in enacting reform. Personally, I have received an important package eight days after it was supposed to arrive, and I have been notified of the arrival of a package, only to be told that the package had been lost. This is not solely the fault of individual employees; these widespread issues point to a flawed system. But as the handlers of arrived packages and the first line of defense when issues arise, postal workers must also be held accountable for shortcomings.
Another example is the ongoing issue with Yale Health scheduling. The website does not display appointment time slots as being available, while in actuality, doctors are ready and willing to see students. This results in unnecessarily long waiting times to see a medical professional, eroding students’ confidence in the institution. The continued existence of such easily amendable problems merely harms both parties, undermining the authorities’ credibility and potentially leaving needs unaddressed. Yale Health’s inaction contributes to the destabilization of social trust, which is wholly unacceptable when it serves so crucial a function. In some cases, one could even say that Yale Health is neglecting its responsibilities when its actions, or in this case, failure to act, can have real consequences. In response to the Overheard at Yale post, some argued that solidarity with the postal workers was the only thing that mattered; that in commenting on their flawed service, we are subjecting the innocent to our individual whims. Yet, pervasive and repeated problems cannot be mended if they are ignored. The first step to progress is recognizing that issues exist. This is no different for individuals, who often are catalysts that can change a system. Criticism rendered upon defective systems and the individual actors within them is not pursued for the sake of satisfying one’s whim, but is conducted with the purpose of securing improvements for the greater society.
Rectification of proper institutional functioning — especially in light of a world and campus of increasing distrust and polarization — seems then to be a step toward repairing relations between authorities like the administration or the post office and Yale students. These small instances of institutional malaise illustrate that institutions are not without impact on society. Consequently, action should be taken by institutions. They can provide models for those they serve, and good models carry the power to influence people positively in profound ways.
For example, in the case of Yale Health, we could hire qualified individuals to fix what can readily be addressed. It shouldn’t be the case to hear about the same issue from a doctor multiple times over the course of months when the ailment could be solved in an afternoon. Similarly, with respect to the post office, competitive practices can be implemented to incentivize better job performance. Dedication to service can be cultivated, especially with reinforcement from better treatment of workers. Displays of anger toward individual workers are simply unproductive, and though institutions must themselves work toward progress, we can do our part to make repetitive and uninspiring work more pleasant.
When duty is carried out faithfully and when all can acknowledge that an institution is performing in accordance with expectations, then there will be no reason for criticism. If one can trust that people and systems live up to their word, then positivity and good faith can be restored.
Lauren Lee is a freshman in Hopper College. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org .