Classrooms littered with trash and food, and chewing tobacco spit onto the sauna floor, prompted administrators to post new etiquette signs around campus. Hung over winter break, these signs tell students that food, drink and commercial tobacco are banned in the classroom, and that students should throw away trash and push in chairs after class is done. Janitors and professors have complained about food and trash left in classrooms and haphazardly arranged seats. The custodial staff is limited due to budget cuts so any cleanup efforts came at behest of professors and students, wasting class time.
"In one of my lecture classes one time (students had left) food everywhere and coffee cups and bottle caps," sophomore Rachel Geressu said. "Nobody was allowed to eat in class after that. Only water."
BreAnn Graber, management analyst in the Vice Chancellor for Operations and Finance office, helped create the signs. She was responsible for the 'Show Your Respect' anti-smoking initiative started last year, and she views the new 'Classroom Respect' campaign as a continuation of those previous efforts.
"A sign doesn't necessarily always work," Graber said, "but it's a step in the right direction."
Most students interviewed agreed with Graber.
"(The signs) would make me think about it, then it would be in my mind, which could affect my behavior," freshman Nicole Bourgoyne said.
Others thought the signs were ineffective.
"I first saw them and wondered whether people will listen to them," Abbey Trebelhorn, freshman, said. But she thought the signs had the right idea, especially reminding students of the ban on commercial tobacco and e-cigarettes.
"I think (being smoke-free) makes it more conformable for everyone on campus."
The ban on commercial tobacco, versus all tobacco, makes an exception for tobacco used for sacred or religious purposes.
"I didn't just want to say, 'hey, we're a tobacco-free campus,'" Graber said. "I kind of wanted to steer clear of that because I didn't want UMD to be offensive to different populations who use tobacco in a sacred, traditional way."
Most students did not initially notice the difference but thought the distinction was warranted. No student interviewed felt that the ban on commercial tobacco should be overturned, even among tobacco users.
"(Chewing tobacco) is kind of a gross habit," sophomore Austin Strong said. "Occasionally I do it but I would never want to do it on campus."
Students had other complaints about classroom behavior, too. Some students said misuse of electronics during class time was a distraction.
"People (who) are on their computers and pretending to take notes but are actually on Facebook or Twitter (are) one of my biggest pet peeves," Geressu said. She does not support a ban on electronics in the classroom but thinks professors should force students to be more accountable, like random 'screen checks.'
Others listed grievances unlikely to be solved by signs or rules. Freshman Jake Schofield said he disliked students who talk out of turn and "that annoying guy who's always got to make smart comments." Schofield admitted that the classroom behavior at UMD is far better than he experienced in high school.
"Everyone comes to lectures to learn," Schofield said, "so I think they take it more seriously (than high school)."
Graber said students should look for another sustainability and wellness campaign coming soon.
"We'll probably be doing (a campaign) about 'Beautiful U,' as in beautiful university and beautiful y-o-u," Graber said. The campaign will highlight ways to improve campus and healthy activities available to students.
BY JOHN FAHNENSTIEL