One candy wrapper or cigarette butt thrown on the ground may not seem like a big deal when considering the campus’ size, but a bit here and there can build into a problem. The USM Student Government Association and the Physical Plant have teamed up to prevent trash from accumulating on campus by starting an anti- litter initiative called USM Can.
The preventative measure started in April and targets incoming freshmen with three simple steps. Michelle Shinall, associate di- rector of marketing and campus relations for the Physical Plant, said students have to pick up litter when they see it, throw it away and use positive peer pressure to encourage others to do the same. “This is students’ home away from home, and they should take pride in their campus,” Shinall said.
This year incoming freshmen were invited to take a pledge against the spread of litter during Golden Eagle Welcome Week. Shinall said freshmen would start the legacy of a litter-free USM by “keeping campus beautiful.”
Freshmen and other students who take the pledge to walk three more steps to the trashcan will not be the first to take responsibility for the litter problem.
“There are 200 members of the Physical Plant, and every time we see litter, we stop and pick it up,” Shinall said.
Other campus staff are required to help with garbage pick-up on a daily basis.
“The Physical Plant uses many resources to prevent a major litter problem,” Shinall said. “Custodial staff are required to clean up the outside of buildings they clean once a day, and the parking ga- rage is checked for garbage up to three times a day.”
Surprisingly, instead of the out-side of dining locations, parking lots are the most cluttered places on campus.
“The parking garage is usu- ally bad because students throw garbage under their cars,” Shinall said. “Parking lots are a big problem.”
Southern Miss is not the only campus with a litter problem. The University of Mississippi is noticeably hindered by a wealth of garbage. Chandler McKinley, chairperson for Students for a Green Campus at Ole Miss, said the title of Most Beautiful Campus is an honor that can only be maintained by students who throw trash away.
“This award was not won over- night, but it can be lost overnight,” McKinley said. “We need to real- ize how great of a campus we have and should always be working towards keeping it great. We have the Most Beautiful Campus, and it wasn’t us who made it this beautiful. Our job is to maintain what has been gifted to us and respect the years of work and money that has been put into making our campus so beautiful.”
Southern Miss, adorned with decade old oak trees and historical buildings, is also beautiful. There are many qualities, new and old, that are degraded as a result of garbage. Earlier this semester, tailgaters that visited campus for the USM vs. MSU home game demonstrated this by leaving a sea of red Solo cups and paper plates strewn on the ground— and they do not even go here.
Students have a heavier responsibility to the campus they are residents of and frequent on a daily basis. If for no other reason, faculty, staff and students should be motivated to reach for the trash can for their best cam- pus experience.
To those who ignore the USM Can initiative, University Police can address individuals who litter if they see it happening. But the litter initiative is not intended to bully students into being environmentally aware and conscientious. Those behind the initiative want students to pick up litter be- cause they want to.
“We don’t want to threaten students so they will pick up trash,” Shinall said. “They should want to keep it clean because this is their home.”