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Pooper Caught?

Could this be true?

Has anyone else heard the rumors that security caught the phantom pooper but chose not to reveal this to the public? Does anyone know if that is true? If so, does anyone know the identity of the phantom pooper?

See here for previous Poo Fighters posts. Comments?

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Deaf Ears

The Record provides a serviceable update on Poo Fighters. Some excerpts and comments below. (By the way, the two other nominations for naming this scandal are The Mad Crapper and The Phantom Shitter. Cast your vote in the comments!)

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Errant Poo

Thanks to Concerned Father for pointing out that that the our cri du poo has made U.S. News and World Report.

Williams’s War on Errant Poo

Williams College is having an excrement problem, and everyone —- administrators, custodians, students, and the school newspapers’ editorial board —- is begging the putrid perpetrators to stop. Since the beginning of the semester, custodians have executed six “excrement-related bio-cleanups” on campus, the Williams Record reports. And just this past weekend, workers discovered five vomit-soiled toilets, along with a broken urinal and a damaged bathroom mirror. School officials have questioned its students’ “human decency” and worry about their much “abused” custodial staff.

The Williams Record has also taken a hard stand against this sloppy bathroom behavior. “The volume and variety of these bio-incidents indicate that this is everyone’s problem. While only a few people may be making the messes, by standing silently on the sidelines, the majority of us are implicitly accepting this behavior. If the only noise the majority of us make about this issue is grumbling after the fact when our houses are slapped with fines, how can we expect change?” Bold words for trying times.

Hah! Comments:

1) No such thing as bad publicity.

2) Note that this item is not from U.S. News itself. This is just a blog, The Paper Trail, maintained by U.S. News. I wouldn’t be surprised if their readership is less than that of EphBlog. Moreover, the overlap of that readership with people whose opinion Williams might care about is certainly smaller than, say, College Confidential. Want to worry about bad publicity? Worry about this thread.

3) I have yet to hear any hard evidence that there is more vomit clean-up and public urination going on this year than in past years. And, I know from experience that just because College officials get in a tizzy over something is not reason enough to conclude that this year is different. Could the Record please do some better reporting on this topic? How many bio-cleanups of what types have there been in the last few years?

4) What makes any of this newsworthy is the poo. But, even here, we have exactly 6 incidents, quite possibly all caused by one individual. (Is there enough genetic information in a poo sample to determine for sure that this is one individual? To determine gender and race? How expensive are such tests?) This is, obviously, a bad thing, but much of the reaction seems overblown. (Still, the topic does now rate its own category at EphBlog.)

UPDATE: By the way, we still need a good nickname for this contretemps. Suggestions? EphPoo? Poo Fighters?

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Paid Extra

With regard to the bio-cleanup in Morgan.

It happened Sunday morning sometime after 2:30 am, ’cause that’s when I went to bed, and the bathroom was clean then.

And Rahul – you could not honestly expect someone to clean that up. It was possibly the grossest thing I’ve ever seen. We’re talking huge puddles of puke all over the floor, and you could identify individual food particles. At least the custodial staff gets paid extra to do it.

First, is the custodial staff really “paid extra” for these sorts of clean ups? If so, how much? How long has the policy been in place? I have no problem with this, but only a fool would fail to note that paying extra for something is unlikely to decrease it. (Which isn’t to say — obviously! — that the custodial staff is creating the messes which they then get paid extra to clean up. Instead, if this is a new policy, it could be that the actual rate of bio-messes are the same as in years passed but that the new policy is causing those messes to be reported more frequently.) If the custodians do get paid extra for each incident, then there should be a very accurate historical record of such events. The Record should investigate.

Second, if we know that this particular event occurred after 2:30 AM (and if there wasn’t some huge party in Morgan), then the list of possible suspects is small. Do we have any Morgan readers who can narrow down the time frame? When was the mess discovered? With a list of the people who entered Morgan between, say, 1:00 AM and 5:00 AM, the Record (or a College Council committee) could start interviewing people. Anyone who was that sick would have been noticed by someone . . .

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Your Platform

On the topic of how Williams is handling the recent rash of bio-cleanup incidents and other dorm damage, an anonymous commentator asks:

concerned father: Have you contacted the powers-that-be at Williams?

Excellent question! But concerned father (an anonymous participant with a son at Williams) might reasonably decide that any time who put into this project would be wasted, that the powers-that-be might not respond to him or, if they did respond, would do so only with platitudes. You can’t fight Hopkins Hall, as the saying goes.

Unless you use EphBlog! We offer our services to concerned father [CF] or any other member of the Williams community eager to agitate for change. CF could join us as an author (anonymous or otherwise). He could then pursue this topic with the help of the EphBlog community. (We have hundreds of not thousands of Williams readers, including senior administrators.)

For example, CF could post his questions to different administrators and then share with us the answers that they provide (or the fact that they failed to respond). He could document the dorm-bills that he is receiving and try to get to determine if they are accurate. (If the College (or the facilities department) gets extra money when “damage” is reported, isn’t there an incentive to categories everything as damage, as opposed to wear-and-tear?) He could gather information about the policies at other schools. He could network with other parents and students interested in the issue and upset with the way that the College is handling things.

Back in the days before EphBlog, this would have been very hard to do. (I still recall Anthony Moro ’54 trying to agitate for change by writing alumni letters more than a decade ago.) But now, we provide the platform.

Join us and agitate. You may not accomplish what you seek to, but a good time is guaranteed for all. EphBlog is your platform. Use it or don’t whine about the status quo.

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Eph Poo

Perhaps we need a new motto instead of “All Things Eph.” Maybe: “EphBlog: Your best source for news on Williams shit.”

For those who want further updates on the Poo Fighters, start here with a Record news story and editorial, and note the latest all-campus e-mail. Comments:

1) No compliments on my clever Poo Fighters pun? This is a tough crowd.

2) Everyone should calm down. There have been 24 incidents, only 6 of them involving poo. Perhaps my glasses are vomit-colored, but there were problems with people mis-worshiping at the porcelain throne back in the day. How many “bio-cleanup” incidents were there last year? How long has the College even tracked this statistic? How accurately is it being tracked now? I would not be surprised if, 5 years ago, facilities did not even tally how many times such a clean-up was necessary. Without more details on the data, and on the data-gathering process, it is tough to have an informed opinion.

3) Yet I am all about solutions! We can all agree that the 6 poo-smearing incidents are troubling. Fortunately, there is a lot more that the College could do to identify the culprits.

First, tell us the facts. (It would be nice to see the Record do a little more investigative reporting as well.)

The behavior is reprehensible: valued members of the College community, our custodians, have had to do twenty-four bio-cleanups since September 5, eight involving urine, six involving excrement, eight involving vomit, one involving both vomit and urine, and one involving used condoms. The incidents have occurred in eight upperclass residence halls (in all four neighborhoods), two first-year residence halls, Rice House, Paresky, and the Log.

This is not a bad summary, but the more details provided the more likely we are to catch the culprit(s). Where were the 6 poo incidents? When were they reported, data and time? When were they estimated to have occurred?

Second, the College knows exactly which ID cards were used in these houses around these times. Release that information, either publicly or to a committee charged with investigating the problem. Say what you will about Rice House but, at most times, there are not a lot of people going in and out. Moreover, anyone who does not swipe their card needs to have the door held by someone. Interview anyone who went in the building around the time of the incident.

Will this catch the poo-leaver? Not necessarily. But it can’t hurt. It will also demonstrate that the community is taking the problem seriously, is doing something about it.

Third, I still like my plan. Since no one has proposed a better one, why not give it a try? Note that some readers have misunderstood how such a site might work. Not everything submitted would be allowed to stay. There would be a committee of students that would remove inappropriate pictures/comments. If students can pick JAs, they can handle this.

4) There was a College Council meeting last night on the topic. Alas, the CC meetings do not seem to be posted on-line this year (rant on that topic here), but CC Secretary Remington Shepard (who has a nice column about the issue) has kindly offered to send me a copy. I will post them when he does.

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Poo Fighters

There are apparently some poo problems at Williams. (Could someone paste the campus e-mail that went out about this into the comments?) See here for discussion and here for details on tonight’s forum. Alas, the forum has already started but perhaps someone there is reading Ephblog. If so, pass on my plan.

The problem is that it is very hard for the College bureaucracy to monitor and punish student misbehavior without extensive student involvement. There are just not enough security officers. Moreover, students (like Joe) are generally unwilling to rat out their peers. Joe complains about damage in Perry House but has, presumably, not reported the miscreants to the Deans Office. Why not? Well, partly because students don’t want to rat out one another, partly because they distrust the Deans Office to do the right thing and, perhaps, partly out of fear of retaliation (see below).

How to fix it? Simple! WSO should create a public website, run by a student committee appointed by College Council or the Gargoyles and devoted to pictures taken by students of other students behaving badly. See someone steal a toaster from the snack bar or trash the picnic tables in the freshman quad or shout a drunken slur and, click, record the moment. Take their picture and send it in. Pissed that people are pushing rudely at a dance? Take their picture and send it in. If you know the names of the people in the picture, provide them. Tell the story behind the pictures. Explain why you don’t think that this behavior belongs at Williams.

Those pictures and the associated names and commentary would be posted for all to see, perhaps right on the WSO main page. Students who know the names of those pictured could post that information. Students who think that they are unfairly named or pictured would be able to respond, to explain why their behavior was misunderstood or justified or whatever. Discussion would ensue. Picture/names/incidents could be removed once “misunderstandings” were corrected.

What are the advantages of such a plan?

First, it is incremental. Try it for a while and see if it works. There is little cost to experimentation. If it doesn’t work, stop. If it does, expand the program.

Second, it does not require permission of the College. Students have the power to do this themselves. Moreover, any plan that requires an active change in College procedures is unlikely to be effective. The College has struggled with students-behaving-badly for decades. Other colleges face identical issues. If there were some policy change that administrators could make, that change would have been made by someone, somewhere. Waiting for the College to act is a prescription for despair. Such an approach also avoids the hard problems of guilt/innocence/proportionality/procedure that the College must consider it its official disciplinary procedures.

Third, it does not require resources. Indeed, a single student could start by just posting a discussion on the WSO homepage and keeping that discussion updated. (Can you include pictures in a discussion?) EphBlog would also be willing to host the effort. It would be better if the project were officially sponsored by CC or Gargoyles, but that could come later.

Fourth, students acting collectively to maintain and improve their community is in the best traditions of Williams. Indeed, students already do a great deal of looking out for each other, of stopping fights and avoiding trouble, of preventing a peer from doing something that he’ll regret in the morning.

The right way to think of this effort is not in terms of public shaming. Putting up a picture of Joe Idiot ’08 as he pushes to the front of the drink line or trashes someone’s bicycle may shame him a bit, but it is more likely to anger him. The purpose here is not shame, it is prevention or even deterrence.

Once Williams becomes the sort of place at which destructive and disrespectful behavior is openly monitored and mocked by the students themselves, there will be a lot less destructive and disrespectful behavior.

See original post for links and discussion. You may not like this solution, but there is no better one.

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