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Chaos Theories: No ifs, ands or cigarette butts in Athens

I think – or at least I hope – that I am not the only one who is frequently repulsed by the excess of cigarette butts that exists on Ohio University’s campus.

To walk along South Green’s catwalks and see them scattered across the walk like confetti, or to ascend a set of stairs where they are literally piled by the dozen on every step is not only disgusting but also disappointing.

Unfortunately, like many other incidents and attitudes on our campus, the ramifications for the actions that cause this situation are not limited to OU.

Granted, although these butts might seem disproportionately excessive because they collect over a period of weeks or months, it is still a common sight to see the person walking in front of you flip a cigarette into a nearby puddle without a second thought.

Therein lies the problem: We don’t think about such actions.

According to the convenient poster tacked in the hallway of my residence hall, only seven of 100 people smoke on our campus.  Though this is a generally encouraging statistic, that means only 7 percent of the people at this university are despoiling it for the other 93 percent.  

To reiterate : only 7 percent.

After subtracting those who do dispose of their cigarettes in a courteous manner, the number shrinks even more.  

At the heart of the reason for their defilement is an attitude that might affect many more people than just smokers — a sense of entitlement and self-righteousness.  Too often, students adopt the attitude that because they pay money to attend, OU’s campus is theirs for the taking.

To spit gum on the sidewalks, never mind the trash can 6 feet away; to throw garbage on the green; and of course, to discard cigarette butts wherever one pleases: Those are all acceptable because, after all, we’re paying.

On the contrary, attending this university is not a right but a privilege.  It is steeped in a history that few acknowledge, let alone comprehend in its entirety.

By becoming OU students, we are carrying on a legacy that has been in place for more than 200 years. Do we really want that legacy to be the ash ground into the sidewalks?

Furthermore, this campus is our home for four years, so we owe a significant investment to its wellbeing.  Just because a person did not grow up in Athens is no reason to turn one’s nose up at it and despoil its beauty before moving on after graduation.  

We should take pride in this place; we owe it to ourselves, to the alumni and to the generations to come.  So walk to a trash can to throw away your gum and find an ashtray before you discard your cigarette.

Only then can you begin to leave a legacy worth remembering.

And there are no buts about that.

Allison Hight is a sophomore studying English and a columnist for The Post. Tired of being smoked out? Email Allison at


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