It was funny because it was true…
dank third floor bathroom
cockroach staggers upside down
girls! look out below
This haiku was a response to the miserable conditions of the women’s bathrooms in the art building where I pursued an MFA. The university was the state’s flagship school and had (has) wild ambitions to become a top public institution. The aging art building is unique and is an interesting place for learning/teaching, but despite all the money the school spent on “improvements,” important things such as adequate lavatories and good lighting were last on the list. The restrooms were dim and foul and, on my very first day of class, the girl entering the first floor bathroom in front of me literally gagged on the reek when she walked through the door–it smelled of sewer gas. (The janitors did a pretty good job, but there was something wrong with the pipes and the ventilation that did not get fixed in the three years I attended.) I was appalled at the ongoing state of the restrooms and did everything I could to initiate change, but aside from getting the lighting improved at the start of my third year (finally, I could see if anyone was lurking in the shower stall in the corner! finally, I could check to see if I had menstrual stains on my jeans! finally, I could see if I had metal shavings embedded in my skin after cleaning up the metal shop!), nothing was improved. I believe that the toilets were the last thing administration cared about because they did not bring in money. No one decides to go to a university because the toilet doesn’t stink–it’s a given (right?) that the toilets don’t stink at the school that costs you $7,500 a semester to attend. On the floor frequented by faculty, administration and visitors, the restroom was bright, ventilated and had two ply paper. The toilets on the other three floors were an insult to students. I believe that the state of those restrooms was a reflection of the state of contemporary higher education; it’s about the show, the money and the status. If administration truly believed in the power of education and in the betterment of our society that education undoubtedly achieves, administration would show students the respect of clean, hygienic and safe facilities. If it’s not good enough for administration, how can it be good enough for the rest of us? This poem is based on a true story; I sent it off as a joke to a classmate at the start of our second year.