Common courtesy

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Suggestions, accumulated wisdom, and community norms for how to treat strangers considerately. Please expand.

At doors

  1. Entering or exiting a building: look behind you to see whether anyone else is coming through the same door in the next 5 seconds. If the door will slam in the face of the person behind you, hold it open.
  2. If you see someone right outside, and opening the door would involve no more effort than extending your arm, go ahead and give it a push.
    • In particular, let the pizza dude inside, even if it ain't your pizza. We're lucky to get delivery here.
  3. If there are two doors going into a building, and a large number of people are squeezing through one while the other door remains closed, open and go through the unopened door so as to optimize the flow of traffic.
  4. If you see someone carrying boxes, ask if there's a door you can open.
  5. If someone is standing in front of a dorm with a sleeping bag and a prospectus, and appears to be under the age of 20, offer to swipe the person in. It is probably a pre-frosh.
  6. When smoking, don't huddle right outside the doors to the building. Nobody wants to walk through a cloud of smoke every time they need to enter or exit. There's been a rule against smoking within 25 feet of a campus building since 2003 anyway, not that anyone's ever gotten in trouble for it.

Around campus

  1. Say hello to people you meet. If someone else says hello to you, respond in kind. Bonus points for smiling while saying hello.
  2. Say "excuse me" rather than just pushing past people in a crowd or a constricted space.
  3. Wave to, nod, or mouth "thank you" to drivers who stop for you to cross on a pedestrian crossing. It's the law for them to stop, but it's still polite when they do because many don't.
    • Look both ways before you cross the street, even if you're at a crosswalk.
  4. If someone farts in Schow, make believe you didn't hear it. (Even though you did and it's hilarious)
  5. If possible, leave space on the sidewalk so others don't have to walk in water, mud, or snow. If you're walking in a group and one person comes in the opposite direction, move behind someone in your group so the person passing can use the sidewalk as well.
    • And be careful how you maneuver with that umbrella. You almost took my eye out.
  6. If you are innocently walking around campus in a crowd of people and you suddenly see Jack Bauer running after someone and he yells at you to get down, do it.

In Conversation

  1. DON'T interrupt someone while they're talking, no matter how insightful you think what you have to say is. This is one of the rudest things one could do in a conversation, though oftentimes people simply aren't aware that they are guilty of doing it. Instead, 1. make sure they've finished speaking and making their point, 2. *wait a half-second*, and then 3. go ahead and say what you wanted to say. And if you miss your chance because someone else chimed in before you, then oh well, life goes on. You're not as interesting as you think, anyway.


  1. Don't write things in ALL CAPS. or all lowercase, for that matter. Ever.
  2. If you're done using a public computer, close all the windows so people know it's not in use. Log off, unless you want strangers to look through (and potentially modify) the non-public files in your Achilles account.
  3. You shall not covet your neighbor's wife, husband, non-monogamous partner, or simply his/her recent random hookup. Also can be stated as, "Thou shall not covet sloppy seconds."
  4. You can pick your friends, and you can pick your nose, but you can't pick your friend's nose.

In dorms

  1. When watching a movie when other people are present, don't talk (unless the movie is awful and the group as a whole wants to).
  2. Have some discretion when making out. Avoid egregious public displays of affection.
  3. If you cook in a kitchen, for God's sake, clean up after yourself, especially if you are using other people's cookware. Don't leave your spaghetti sauce on the stove top until spring break. If you cook and "that mess was there when I got here," just take a few minutes and clean it up anyway. Your guests probably don't want to eat in filth.
    • Don't take other people's ingredients. Don't use other people's cookware to store your food in. In fact, try to avoid using other people's cookware altogether, and, if you really must do so, do it so they aren't aware of the fact that you used their cookware (clean it, and don't do a half-assed job, either).
  4. Don't throw your old sardines, or any other stinky refuse, into the bathroom trash can. There is a trash room.
  5. Talk to your custodian.
  6. Don't destroy or abuse property. Particularly not if it belongs to somebody else.
  7. If you yak or see someone yak in a place that's a bit out of the way -- a basement, far-off corner, or anywhere that isn't a toilet, really -- make your best effort to tell someone responsible that there's a stinky, biohazardous mess on the floor.
  8. Don't sample random people's shampoo, toothpaste, face wash, etc just because it's in the bathroom.
  9. Turn off the television when you leave and no one else is watching, even if it's a TV in a public space. Especially if it's a TV in a public space.
  10. Don't steal. Some stealing is okay though, like stealing food and free stuff. Especially free stuff.
    • Stealing food is not okay! Don't steal food that's not yours. Other people get hungry sometimes too, especially for the food they have paid for themselves.
    • But stealing food from dining halls is perfectly acceptable. We already get ripped off enough by our meal plans and the hours of the dining halls.
  11. Keep in mind that you live with other people. Playing music loudly late at night when people are trying to sleep or study, especially after having been requested to turn it down, is incredibly rude. Be considerate and use common sense.
    • Blasting music in the quad, no matter what time of day, is unnecessary and inconsiderate. Not everyone shares your taste in music (and even if they do, they don't necessarily want to hear it thumping through their closed windows).
  12. Socializing in halls is a beautiful thing, but not so much at 3 a.m. during reading period. (Especially in dorms where doors and walls are thin!) Take those extra five steps and walk into someone's room.
  13. Smoking pot and setting off the fire alarms is not cool, especially at 3 am.
  14. Make sure the toilet actually flushes when you go. It's gross to have to flush someone else's bodily functions for them.
  15. Put seats down on toilets after you use them- not everyone can pee standing up.
    • Point of information: humans who are not naturally blessed with cis-masculine plumbing may nonetheless enjoy a squat-free squirt by employing a Shewee, Whiz Plus, or LaFemme.
  16. If you should find yourself living in a dorm where walls/doors are thin (i.e., Morgan, other recently-renovated dorms), please refrain from flinging your door wide open and letting it SLAM! behind you, creating a deafening crash. This is highly annoying no matter what time of day it is.

In laundry rooms

  1. Knock the lint out of the lint screen after you use the dryer.
  2. Don't leave your laundry in the washer or dryer for hours after it's done. No one wants to touch your wet underwear to move it out of the way and other people like having clean clothes too.
    • If, by chance, the person before you has left laundry in the washer (we all do it once in a while) be so nice as to move the clothes into an empty drier, if available. You might as well, and it keeps them clean and away from the spilled bleach that is inevitably everywhere.
      • If you spill bleach in the laundry room, wipe it up.

In dining halls

  1. If there's only one omelet left at the dining hall, ask the person behind you if they want half.
    • Likewise, if you are offered a half of an omelet, ask the person behind you if they would like a quarter... and so on.
    • If there are "only" 6 chicken tenders left and only one person in line behind you, don't take more than half. Especially if you already have a burger on your plate.
  2. When putting up your tray in Driscoll or Mission Dining Hall, gently place your silverware into the cloudy blue dishwashing solution, don't throw it in there and splash everyone around you.
  3. Oh yeah, and don't try to compost paper cups, saltine wrappers, etc. -- there's a trash can for that.
  4. Compost your napkins and tea bags.
  5. Thank the cardswiper people in the dining halls.
  6. When putting your tray away at any dining hall, have the courtesy not to cut other people who are waiting in line to do the same thing, even if you are rushed. If you can't resist the urge to cut people when you are rushed, give yourself enough time to put your tray away before you need to leave for class or whatever else you need to go to after a meal.
    • On the subject of busing trays, please do just that. Don't leave random glasses, plates, or even full trays of food at your table, because it's disrespectful (and not to mention degrading) to the people who work hard to feed you.
    • In fact, don't cut people when you aren't rushed; for instance, in the line for First Friday. Being drunk and not wearing enough clothing on a cold night are not excuses.


  1. If the room is empty, and you're leaving, turn off the lights. Please.
  2. When in a library, kindly turn the light off when you leave a carrel.
  3. If you go outside to smoke, for crying out loud, throw away your cigarette butts when you're done. Littering is not cool, ever, and this is no exception.
  4. If you have a plastic/glass/aluminum container to toss, but the nearest public recycling bin is full, hang onto it until you come to one that isn't full rather than making a pile on top of the bin. The facilities staff should not have to remove dozens of empty bottles sitting on top of the container before they empty it.

In classes

  1. Don't fall asleep in a discussion class. Coffee is your friend.
    • If you must fall asleep in any class, try not to snore loudly or jolt awake too hilariously.
    • If you're likely to fall asleep in class, just skip and sleep. You're not likely to get anything useful out of the class period in that state, so you may as well catch up for later in the day.
  2. When engaged in debate, distinguish between criticisms of your argument and criticisms of your character.
    • Don't make the latter when you're trying to make the former.
    • Don't interpret the former as the latter.
  3. When you go into the language lab in Weston, hand your ID card to the monitor, don't just throw it into the bin.
  4. If you take notes on a laptop, especially in a large, dimly-let lecture (say, ARTH 101), turn the brightness down. It's easier on everyone's eyes--including your own!
    • Also, if you're "taking notes" on your laptop, don't make it too obvious that you're checking your email or watching video clips on YouTube. Resist the temptation to yell "Haw! Haw! That dog's wearin' a baseball cap!"
  5. Although your time is valuable, please do not start packing your bag/putting on your jacket three minutes before class ends. All that rustling is gosh-darn irritating to your classmates, and mad disrespect to your prof (whose final words are usually the most important).

Cell phones

  1. Before entering a classroom, a library, a concert, a lecture, a play, or a movie, put your cell phone on vibrate. PLEASE. (How about just turn it off or silence it completely? You can't answer it, why should you care if it's ringing?)
  2. If you are in the library and feel the need to talk to someone on your cellphone, have your conversation in an area where people aren't studying nearby. Also refrain from having loud, long conversations with other people while in the library when people are trying to study around you.
  3. Don't leave your cell phone on a table and then walk away. If it rings or vibrates, it will bother everyone.
  4. If you are in a dark space with others, such as a movie, don't text-message. The light from the screen is bright and very obnoxious.


  1. If you are at a classical music or choir performance, or at the '62 Centre or movie theater, shut up during the performance.
  2. Do not loudly unwrap throat lozenges in the middle of the music or play. If you have a cough, it's best to unwrap one before the music/play/whatever starts, or during a break in the middle.
    • This can be very hard for someone with say, a cough. Perhaps excusable if you cover your mouth and try to muffle it.
  3. Do not clap between movements, or at any point where the conductor asks you not to clap.
  4. If you are 168 years or older, recall that you've suffered hearing loss. What seems to be an inconspicuous whisper to you is actually quite loud.
    • I'm sure all the senior citizens around Williamstown read Willipedia...
    • Where am I? Is this Yoohoo Tube? Can anyone hear me? Is this a virus? I got lost on the WebMD psoriasis page. Is this the Google?
  5. Don't bring small children.
  6. Take off your hat.
  7. Turn off or silence your cell phone - do NOT leave it on vibrate.
  8. Don't send text messages.
  9. Don't harrass your friends and/or strangers into seeing your sub-par performance. (However, if you are the subject of successful peer pressure, accede gracefully and find something nice to say.)