by Karolis Margis, UWCM
12th of July, 2022
Being a member of our community for 10 months already, I noticed how there are many unaddressed issues – taboos – that nobody is willing to talk about. Our toilets (a.k.a. common bathrooms) are one of those taboos. I am really surprised how nobody mentions toilets in their casual conversations or discussions at the lunch table. As if they were totally insignificant parts of our UWC journey. I am very much against such ignorance on our issues, thus I decided to write this opinion article. One might wonder ‘what the heck is that guy talking about?’, but that’s the thing – many of us don’t even have a conscious understanding of the issue. However, certainly deep in ourselves we have this feeling of emptiness when we enter (or leave) our common bathrooms. That applies both to the lavatories in the school building and in the residence. I would like to point out two main problems and their solutions.
Firstly, it just doesn’t look good. I never heard any of our students saying that they can vibe with the color of the walls in our toilets. That’s because the lavatories look gloomy, unpleasant and consequently they create the atmosphere of a place where you don’t want to stay for long. Like a hospital – all white and creepily sterile. If we want to make our spaces better and more enjoyable to students, why do we make our common bathrooms look like hospitals? If I were in charge of the interior of our lavatories, I would paint the walls in all sorts of joyful colors: pink, marine, green, orange etclassicac. Then the next step would be putting some inspirational posters and quotes or perhaps contemporary and l paintings. We could decorate different toilets in different culture themes, thus contributing to our intercultural understanding. When you think about that – toilets are awfully boring, thus by adding some posters, quotes or memes we would make the experience of visiting a common bathroom more entertaining and enlightening. Furthermore, it would be more efficient, since many of us end up staring at one point while sitting on the honey bucket either way. We could even put a bookshelf, for students who want their lavatory journey to be educational. All of this will help us create a five star experience.
The second problem that I observed while exploring our toilets is a social one. We tend to stay silent while visiting the common bathroom, hence wasting many opportunities to have amazing conversations. That also adds to the general alienation that I experience while visiting our lavatories. One wouldn’t associate alienation with UWC, but unfortunately it is inevitable once you enter the kingdom of feces. I tried to take the initiative myself once. Strangely, a person standing next to me didn’t want to engage in a conversation about politics while doing his business in the pissoir. Of course, I didn’t give up and tried to start conversations with strangers while washing hands, but the result was similar. A good way to solve this problem is by making some workshops about openness, inclusion and involvement. Still, the most important thing for each of us is to remember that we are the people who are responsible for making the ball roll. We all should have our little introspection in our heads and ask ourselves what we could do differently when being in the toilet. If we will put a united and continuous effort into this, we will make our lavatories a place of socialization where many new friendships will begin and where many of our best UWC experiences will happen.
Now, an average person (I based it on my personal experience) stays in the toilet for about 30 minutes a day. Some, of course, spend a bit less time if they do their business while sleeping. However, most of us are not as efficient. Our UWC Journey lasts about 20 months or 600 days. That means we will spend 18000 minutes in the lavatory in those 20 months. That is 300 hours or 12,5 days. 12,5 days is enough to host a damn good summer camp. So let’s make these 12,5 days into a damn good UWC experience.
If our community and school administration will follow my kind advice, in a matter of months we will see students who are excited for their journeys to the lavatory. It will feel like home, like a place where you want to stay. I would go as far as to say that UWC Maastricht should make it’s official goal to become the college which has “the best lavatories in the whole of UWC”. This remarkable achievement would boost our spirit and make our college even more famous and reputable among UWC schools. So let’s make our toilets great again!