Speaking Out

Trashing the Streetscape

Despite pious assertions that the University is aware of and dealing with the annual end-of-semester trash problem, the situation is as bad as ever. As I walked the streets of University City these past few days, I saw streets littered with furniture, clothing, books and papers, spoiled food and broken glass, most just thrown directly onto the sidewalk without even the benefit of a trash bag. By the time landlords clean up, much of the material will have been dispersed by wind and rain, to become a permanent part of the streetscape.

Because both student tenants and their landlords appear to be shirking their responsibilities, I submit that the University has an obligation to take action. First, we have a clear interest in maintaining a clean, safe, and attractive environment around Penn, if only to avoid scaring away students --every prospective student family I've met has been appalled at the levels of filth on the street. Second, our educational mission does not stop at the classroom door; we have a duty to socialize our students, and this includes teaching them to act responsibly and be considerate of their fellow citizens. The current illegal and irresponsible behavior is a slap in the face to the other residents of the neighborhood. We do not serve our students well by turning a blind eye to this activity and sending the culprits the message that, because they are affiliated with an elite university, they needn't behave with basic decency.

This problem can be prevented. Landlords are responsible for controlling the trash around their premises. They can include strict clauses in leases forbidding improper trash disposal and use security deposits to finance prompt cleanup. The University should make it clear to landlords that illegal dumping will no longer be tolerated, and use its influence with the City to ensure that scofflaws are fined.

The recent heavy-handed attempts by the University to regulate street vendors demonstrates that Penn is not shy of entering the political arena when it perceives a threat to its interests. I suggest that the shocking levels of trash on our streets constitute a far more significant threat to our community than a few food trucks.

--Patrick J. Loll, Assistant Professor of Pharmacology/Med

Response to Dr. Loll

Contrary to what has been stated, the University has taken an active role to address the trash problem in the area during the move-out period and throughout the academic year. It is most obvious to all of us that our cooperative efforts have improved the cleanliness of the area to a certain degree. However, we recognize that more needs to be done. Penn's Clean Streets Campaign has served as a catalyst for a number of initiatives involving extra trash pickup, student education and service, and city code trash enforcement directed at landlord compliance.

The University has taken a lead role in also organizing, along with other area institutions, the soon to be announced Special Services District*, which is an important investment in achieving consistent cleanliness of the area. There is a fundamental agreement that trash on our streets is a shared problem that will only be remedied by the compliance and cooperation of all of us, including area landlords, students and all of our neighbors. By working together we will achieve a cleaner and safer community.

-- Glenn D. Bryan, Director of Community Relation

* Please see UCD article in this issue.- -Ed.


Volume 43 Number 36
June 17, 1997

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