An Open Letter to Anthony Monaco

Opinion | April 14, 2017

November 29, 2016

Dear Anthony Monaco,

I am a First Year Student at Tufts University, and I am writing to you today to bring to your attention a problem that many students at this institution have noticed, even though they may not all have found the words to articulate their frustrations. I do not claim to speak for all Tufts students — I haven’t yet acquired that level of arrogance — however, I know from my conversations with classmates that I speak for some of them. I realize that from your position of privilege at the Gifford House you have not noticed this problem; this letter is not a display of indignation towards you nor your power, but rather a critique of something that happens right under your nose everyday. I write to you today to peacefully tell you of my struggle, and the struggle of many other students here: our hands are sopping wet.

I come from a small conservative town in Texas. My first introduction to an environment different from my home was Tufts University. For the longest time, I had trouble separating differences of the Northeast from differences solely present at this school. In my short time here, I have been able to explore the greater Boston area, and my travels have led me to the conclusion that the moistness of our hands is unique to Tufts. A few of the fine institutions and establishments I have visited to conduct my research include the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Northeastern University, Harvard University, and the McDonald’s on Commonwealth Avenue.

While I began my investigation on the widespread occurrence of hand-wetness on campus, I have since honed my research to a surgical precision. I have concluded that the reason so many students are unable to dry their hands is a lack of paper towels, blow dryers, or any hand-drying apparatuses in the bathrooms of Tufts dorms. Initially you may ask yourself why our hands get wet in the first place; that is because most students here are hygienic to the point that they consider it necessary to clean their hands after using the restroom. The tendency of students to wash their hands comes from both societal pressure and a widespread belief in bacteria. For further literature on the reasons behind hand washing you can look here , here, or even here.

Most, if not all, of the guides on hand washing, including the instructions provided by the CDC, include a part of the cleansing process dedicated to the wetting of the hands. Some scientist once said, “for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.” I assert that the wetting of the hands in this process is the action leading to the students’ hands being wet. You are probably wondering, “if this is a step in the path of cleanliness, then what is the problem?” The problem is that most American and European restrooms provide a means by which one can dry off their hands. Many of the dorms at Tufts University lack such mechanisms. Dorms which lack the machinery necessary to dry one’s hands include but are not limited to: Houston, Miller, Metcalf, and Tilton.

Incidentally most of the lavatories  shared by students and faculty do include hand drying apparatuses: The DeWick-MacPhie Dining Center, the Carmichael Dining Center, East Hall, and Bendetson Hall; to name a few. The means to dry one’s hands in these facilities evidences that the Tufts administration is, in fact, aware of the benefits of hand drying. The selected inclusion of such facilities in some but not all Tufts buildings points to a move by administration to save money.

I originally thought that these problems stemmed from environmental roots. I felt that maybe Jill Stein’s Green Party had a vested interest in keeping our hands dripping, but I have found two reasons to suggest otherwise. The primary reason is that no system exists for students to dry their hands at all. If air powered dryers or other environmentally friendly means of hand-drying existed I would not be writing today, but  there does not exist an environmentally friendly means of drying one’s hands.

The second reason I feel that environmental concerns are an unlikely reason behind wet hands is the prescence of door-tissue  dispensers. The image on the right was taken by a professional photographer in a bathroom in Houston Hall. Many dispensers like this one exist other places on campus. Many students may readily assume that these are typical tissue dispensers, but that is not the case. These gadgets exist so that you can open the door after washing your hands, without coming in contact with the organisms living on the door. A similar model can be found here.

I hear you asking yourself, “what is wrong with such dispensers?” The problem here is twofold. Initially it signals to the students of Tufts that the administration is in fact aware of  hygienic matters such as bacteria, but simply neglects to provide the means for hand-drying. While these door tissues may prevent minuscule amounts of bacterial transfer, the actual gestation would be better inhibited by dry hands. Former athlete and drug advocate Lance Armstrong’s website lists moisture and warmth as two of the four greatest contributors to bacterial growth. Human hands are inherently warm, but they are not inherently wet.

Secondly, such dispensers represent a misappropriation of funds at the hands of the administration. While I appreciate that we don’t have to come in contact with germ infested door handles, this could better be achieved by an appliance that requires no restocking. No hands foot-pull systems come to mind: here is one example listed here for $30. Once that one time cost is spent, the money and effort that would be spent restocking door tissues could be reallocated to hand-drying systems, financial aid packages, or literally anything else.

Tufts students are intelligent as shown by the current 14% acceptance rate.  However, despite the academic advantages, Tufts students have not yet evolved beyond the generic gene pool to have hydrophobic skin, and because of this our wish to have dry hands is constantly unmet. We as students at this institution demand implementation of a system in place to help the drying of our hands. Paper towel dispensers are not a likely solution, because environmental groups here would be wary of the effects of paper towels at small liberal arts colleges on climate change, but that is no reason to advocate against electronic hand dryers — or at least reusable cloth towels. This is not a polemic against you, or your administration. Many people, myself included, appreciate your continued service to our university. I write to you today for the sole purpose of bringing to your attention a predicament that many students face under your authority.

Love,

Truett C. Killian