Tipping Points Quiz
(a) Pulling into a parking space I notice on the ground, two empty spaces away from me, the detritus from a recent visit to Wendy’s, deposited beside where a car had been parked. The owner of the car, no doubt with insufficient space in the car for garbage, left the two cups on the ground. Why not, they do it with cigarette butts? There was no garbage bin visible, though there was one just inside the door to the building he or she had entered, 30 feet and 30 seconds away. How close would the bin have to be before the driver would make the effort to place the cups in the bin? In sight of the parking space? 20 feet away? 10 feet away? What is the tipping point?
As I pulled in to park, I noticed a student worker going about her tasks, perhaps 25 feet from the garbage. She passed by the garbage as she drove in, though perhaps she did not notice it. She may have been so focused upon her work, or upon the cell-phone call she was engaged with as she worked, that she did not notice the trash. Or she may have noticed, but it was not her job, not part of the work for which she was being paid. Or perhaps she would have cleaned up that small piece of campus if the garbage had been only 15 feet away, or maybe 10 feet away, rather than 25. How do we teach others to notice and, having noticed, to act, even when it is not part of one’s role as a student or a student worker. Is there a tipping point for students (and faculty and staff) for taking action and ownership of the Berry commons? 10 feet? 15?
(b) Parking is always a problem on college campuses, even at Berry. Here, though, the parking is as frequently an issue of bicycle as automobile parking—a rather pleasant problem. This semester a problem is our grand south entrance to Evans Hall. (See http://www.berry.edu/vtour/detail_main.asp?lid=26#/vtour/images/evans_hall/1.jpg) Students, perhaps running almost late for class, ride up and, dutifully, lock their bikes to one of the handrails on the steps. (This morning five of the six rails were occupied.) Or they park on the sidewalk to the left and right of the steps, often effectively blocking the sidewalk for walking. A bike rack with open spaces stands less than thirty yards away. How close, how convenient, would the bike rack have to be before riders would use the bike rack rather than require others to dodge their vehicles as they enter and leave the building? 20-25 yards? 20-25 feet?
(c) Don’t get me started on smokers and cigarette butts and mindfulness of others.
(d) Tonight I will attend a concert (of course, with cultural events credit!). Before the concert a student will greet the audience and respectfully ask all in the audience to turn off their cell-phones and close their books and computers and give the performers the respect they deserve. Most students (perhaps unlike faculty and administrators?) will silence their phones, but they will not turn them off. Most students—what, 80%?—sitting directly next to me or in front of me or behind me will either text during the concert or will check their phones for texts. The concert will last fifty-five minutes to an hour, at most. What is the tipping point below which the audience would turn off their phones, or at least not text or check their phones for messages? A forty-minute concert? Thirty minutes? Fifteen?
1. Is this one problem or three? (Or two?) By virtue of what can we consider this one or more “problems”? What norm is violated or neglected? What is the source of this norm? How important is this norm?
2. Is this just more evidence for the tragedy of the commons, no matter how disturbing I may find this conclusion?
3. Do I need to get a life?