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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Is Brandeis “ducking” out on its commitment to social responsibility?

Published: March 30, 2012
Section: Opinions

Almost every morning I wake up to the sweet quacking noise of the local ducks in Massell Pond. Usually paddling around or hunting for worms, two feathered friends have decided to set up camp in the pond outside my dorm. Students report that the pair returns back to Massell every year. The birds appear to return early from their winter retreat in the south and spend their time flying between Massell and Chapels ponds. Massell residents have taken interest in the pair, often feeding them leftovers from Sherman.


I myself have visited them a few times, but must admit I am clueless as to what they eat, so I just crumble up bread and throw it to them. One duck is actually quite skilled at catching food in her mouth. The other is slower, preferring to pick up the pieces from the ground. Students say he will eat straight out of your hand if he decides you aren’t formidable.


On a recent visit to the pond, I noticed something rather disconcerting. Right where these adorable animals innocently glide through the pond, there are piles of trash filled with beer boxes and coke bottles. This trash has been in the pond for weeks, while these poor ducks swim through and even drink the water. Occasionally, one of the ducks will try to eat a piece of floating plastic, only to spit it out, realizing that is isn’t food. But if the ducks were to swallow it, they would suffer severe medical problems. Plastic is toxic to ducks and other animals. When swallowed, it can cause choking and suffocation. Even when the ducks don’t swallow it, plastic can lead to strangulation.


Brandeis acts as if it is an environmentally conscious school, but how can that be so if trash in the pond has gone untouched for so long? It is deeply troubling that these ducks are subject to sickness, and possibly even death because careless Brandeis students trash the pond and often don’t clean it up.


Around campus I see fliers for events about recycling challenges and special boxes for certain kinds of waste, but we aren’t effectively approaching the issues staring us in the face. It is no secret that there is trash in the pond. Everyone can see it through Massell Quad, yet they all choose to ignore it. It is time to reassess our environmental awareness and activism, in hopes of preserving the lives of animals and the natural environment right outside our doors.