The Coin: New Bookbag Crackdown is Years Overdue

Each issue two Reserve Record writers debate an important issue for “The Coin.” January’s topic is WRA Campus Security’s new “Backpack Ban.” 

Finally, the ban on backpacks in the Chapel and Ellsworth is here. Ever since I was a freshman, I have seen the need for it. Each day, I leave my backpack on Brick Row or somewhere in Seymour, then meander down to the dining hall. I pull open the door, and the first thing to hit my senses is not the pleasant aroma of Flik Dining’s cooking, but rather the disorienting clutter of backpacks filling the lobby. As I traverse the treacherous terrain, I am often forced to step on top of my classmates’ treasured belongings. Backpacks left in the lobby of the dining hall risk injury to others by means of tripping, but also inflict unnecessary wear and tear on expensive purchases. There is no doubt that every thoughtful student has also come to these same conclusions on their own. Yet the issue persists; I have never witnessed a change from the daily disorder.

Finally, WRA Campus Security has put down its foot. With a student body obviously unwilling to police its own actions, a higher level administrative decision was needed. From here on out, lunches and Morning Meetings should flow more smoothly and everyone will be safer in their travels.

I witnessed much muttering among my classmates regarding the ban on backpacks in the waiting areas. I felt alone with my opinion, as most of the friends expressed disdain at the decision. Their minds jumped straight to logistical concerns: where can backpacks be stored in waiting, if not Ellsworth’s lobby? It seems like a mocking rhetorical question, but I do not ask it in jest.

On idyllic fall and spring days, there is ample outdoor space on campus to rest a bag. Brick Row presents itself as the perfect place to rest a backpack for 45 minutes for students walking from main academic buildings. Meanwhile, those less prescient (or more musically-minded) commuters can find ample room across Ellsworth’s patio to tuck away a backpack. Unfortunately, in a state like Ohio, we all know that those perfect days grow few and far between as the seasons change. Under the looming grey skies of our current Winter and the oncoming downpours of Spring, leaving a backpack outside is a death sentence to the precious books and electronics zipped within.

So we look indoors. I would wager that the most common location to leave backpacks is around James Ellsworth’s wooden table in Seymour. Most students will attend their after-lunch class in Seymour, so that area is an obvious choice. For others, it is a short jaunt away from other buildings. Possible alternatives include day students’ lockers, the WRAP, or simply outside one’s next class.

Contrast these options with irreverently leaving those countless backpacks in Ellsworth or the Chapel. There, it requires conscious thought to find a resting place on open floor, or blatant disregard for property to toss a backpack onto the pile. The sheer quantity of people doing so both adds to the difficulty of accessing those solutions and the perilousness of the situation for everyone passing through. The only upside to these backpack dumps is their ease of retrieval. Every student that walks into the Chapel must eventually walk out, and likewise for Ellsworth. It just makes sense to leave backpacks at the primary means of ingress and egress. Unfortunately, this will lead to a tragedy of the commons, where those means become incredibly polluted. So polluted, in fact, that the aforementioned benefit of using Ellsworth and the Chapel becomes a detriment, as it actually takes extra time to fish a single backpack out of the never-ending lump of canvas.

However, the most important negative impact of backpacks in waiting areas is the compromise of safety. The aforementioned risk of tripping, though rare for an able-bodied person, is nonetheless a bother. For the many people on crutches this year, or for those with nervous disorders that make movement difficult, the clutter of Ellsworth and the Chapel becomes a real risk. As Seymour will soon undergo renovations that will undoubtedly include updates to accessibility, and the ban on backpacks is just the first step in a larger move to modernization. The more pressing concern to the security office is the fact that an abundance of backpacks obstructs critical exits in case of emergency, including fires. It is our simple duty to maintain easy evacuation routes, no matter the managerial costs.

These very crucial concerns trump any superficial worries of the student body. True, with the reduction in quantity of backpacks in one space, there will be new overflow in another area. I have already seen that happen in Seymour. I also know that people manage. There have been no catastrophes. Hopefully, WRA administrators recognize this and incorporate an area for communal backpack storage into Seymour’s new architecture. In the meantime, though, we should cooperate with the backpack ban. Although it might require slight diversions in our daily activities, safety is paramount.

-Zachary Bloom ’17

One Response to “The Coin: New Bookbag Crackdown is Years Overdue”
  1. William McKinzie P'13 says:

    Charlie and Zachary both make good points, but is a compromise possible? Perhaps attractive vertical posts with bag hooks? Made by a woodworking class perhaps?


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