Dorm bathrooms — especially in suites, where residents are charged with tidying up — can be less than clean, promoting the spread of unwanted germs. It certainly does not help that in many dorm bathrooms, the toilets do not have lids, and flushing can scatter bacteria across surfaces. 

In this, the Justice editorial board sees an opportunity. The addition of toilet lids in residential bathrooms would help lessen the spread of harmful bacteria, in addition to promoting good hygiene. When toilets are flushed, the swirling water shoots microscopic particles of waste into the air, a phenomenon known as the “toilet plume,” according to a March 24, 2016 Business Insider article. This can spray fecal matter and the viruses and bacteria within it across bathroom surfaces, including countertops and nearby toiletries, like toothbrushes. A No. 23, 2011 paper published by the Public Library of Science found that these other surfaces in restrooms are often dirtier than the toilet seats themselves. As the Business Insider article notes, salmonella, shigella, norovirus and hepatitis A, among other viruses and bacteria, are transmitted when fecal particles enter the mouth, and the toilet plume can present a risk for those who keep toothbrushes and water glasses in the bathroom.

While acknowledging that this bacteria aerosolization poses a small risk for those who have healthy immune systems and those who wash their hands frequently, this board asks the University to consider the addition of toilet lids in its next round of campus improvements. It would be a small step, but one that could easily help prevent possible outbreaks of, say, norovirus — an illness that can wreak havoc in tight-knit communities, as seen in the 2015 outbreak at a Chipotle near Boston College. 

Brandeis utilizes dual-flush toilets in many of its buildings, and it is true that lower-flow settings for liquid waste aerosolize less than solid waste settings, according to the Business Insider article. However, the fact is that an uncovered toilet will still spray some amount of germs. This issue is compounded when students do not regularly clean their bathrooms with disinfectants, or when they leave toothbrushes uncovered near the toilet. Moreover, even in the Foster Mods, where the toilets do have lids, students may not always put the lid down before flushing. 

While toilet lids would be a welcome campus addition, this board asserts that some of the burden also falls on students who let cleanliness and hygiene slip. This campus — and its restrooms — belongs to the approximately 6,000 students that share it, and it is up to us to keep it clean. After all, as author Brian Aldiss once wrote, “Civilisation is the distance that man has placed between himself and his own excreta.”