Hey, be nice to the tabling person, please



They say don’t let rejection get to you because you will face a lot more rejections than acceptances in life. That was true during my college application process, but that was even more true when I sat at the Atwater, Ross and Proctor dining halls a few weeks ago, asking people to take the Zeitgeist for The Campus. In this case, “rejection” didn’t mean polite “no”s, or  “sorry I’m in a rush”s; instead, it meant indifferent and churlish responses ranging from rolled-eyes, harsh “I don’t care at all”s, to robbery of all available chocolate and sweets on the table without any acknowledgement of me or my partner. These rejections were not a rejection of the survey, but rather a rejection of my presence, of me. 

What’s worse about these rejections is that, unlike my college application decisions, they did not come with statements like “after careful consideration,” “we regret to inform you”, or “we wish you the best,” nor did they come from complete strangers. These rejections came from people I share classes with, people that live down the hall; people that I share this campus with. As a first-year, it is particularly anxiety-inducing to sit (sometimes alone) and face crowds of people. Had I just sat quietly, I would have expected to be ignored. But I was actively approaching people, as respectfully as I possibly could and yet I was still subjected to the ridicule which comes from being treated with ignorance, contempt and apathy. 

People are busy.  Especially on this campus. Even as a first-year, I recognize the amount of effort it takes to keep up with academics, work, athletics and other commitments at Middlebury. Not everyone has time for a five-minute survey, and I respect that. It sure can be annoying to be stopped by a random person and asked, “Have you taken the all-student survey sent out by The Campus?” at lunch time. Still, the simplest and best thing to do if you are indeed in a rush is to say “Sorry, I’m busy” and go on about your day. I would not and will never be offended by how busy you are, or if you don’t want to take a survey. That is totally understandable. But I was deeply offended by the blatant indifference and disrespect that people self-justify because they believe they have more important tasks to complete. Perhaps you do not have time to answer a survey, but everyone has the time to acknowledge someone’s existence. Saying “Sorry, I’ve got to run” takes less than three seconds. And those three seconds make someone feel seen and respected. 

I have made this mistake myself. Often, when I am asked by someone outside of Ross if I’d like to learn about their projects, I pretend to not notice and go about my day, comforting myself that my behavior is justified because I had to go to class. I learned my lesson the hard way, as with tabling for The Campus survey I was subjected to the same attitude of indifference and carelessness.

This type of indifferent attitude is not just adopted towards people who promote various kinds of activities by tabling outside of dining halls. In fact, it is a lot more prevalent than we might think. While rushing about our day, we slam the door on the person right behind us, or we don’t acknowledge the dining hall staff when they greet us. We do many other discourteous things in the name of being busy, while, in reality, we still have the time to at least show basic decency through treating those that approach us with good intentions and respect. 

Perhaps you will never have to promote something, ask someone for a favor, or otherwise need help. If that’s the case, then I congratulate you on your incredible ability to accomplish everything by yourself (though you should still consider treating others humanely). And just in case you have the slightest chance of someday needing someone’s assistance, then I advise you to avoid displays of disregard, disrespect and disdain, especially to your peers. 

Middlebury is a small place and one that I, like many others, take pride in. When we all do our best, it is a supportive and loving community, filled with  talented, diverse and amazing people. Let’s re-examine how we treat others who are simply trying to help build that community. Let’s treat each other with civility and courtesy.

Rain Ji is a member of the class of 2023 and a layout editor for The Campus.