With a great stadium comes great responsibility.
Facilities Services is experimenting with a more economic way of cleaning up the messes left behind by thousands of enthusiastic fans at UT athletic events.
After the Tennessee-Vanderbilt game on Nov. 23, approximately 80 students, belonging to seven different student organizations, pitched in to help clean up Neyland Stadium.
For the last two years, Recycling Manager Jay Price and Assistant Director of Building Services Gordon Nelson have been attending the Conference of Collegiate Sustainability for Athletics, where they quickly discovered a dirty truth: UT pays more to have a stadium cleaned than any other college in the U.S. In fact, other colleges and universities use student groups for stadium cleanup, allowing those who participate to earn funding for organization trips.
Jake Darlington, president of UT's Baptist Collegiate Ministry, said the opportunity poses opportunities for student groups, large and small.
"I definitely think it opens another door for us to pursue missions funding," Darlington said, a senior in business analytics. "However, I see this especially benefiting smaller organizations, such as social clubs and service organizations, with less accessible methods of fundraising."
Nelson, too, endorses the potential financial benefits, in addition to environmental perks. Having students groups clean up venues after events will also aid UT Recycling's goal, which aims to create a zero-waste football stadium by 2015.
"We had dual opportunities," Nelson said. "We had the opportunities to give back to the community and once we started asking questions it was told to us that there are very little opportunities for students to earn money around the UT campus, so we would give students and student groups the opportunities to earn money and we are obviously able to offer savings to the athletic department."
Although the Vanderbilt game cleanup served only as a test run, students were able to clean approximately 60 percent of the stadium, Nelson said.
"It was the right thing to do," he said. "It was a tremendous opportunity. ... I think we could have used more students. Obviously it was 22 degrees on the morning we did it and we were there at 6 a.m. and we could of waited until later – and probably should have, because we had to have students move to the sunny side of the field."
Though Price recalls the students as initially overwhelmed by the task, he and Nelson stated the overall feedback from participating students has been positive.
"There was a lot of energy with the students," Nelson said. "Students thought it was great. We had some very successful student groups that showed a lot of fervor of wanting to do it again and again. And really the feedback ... was 'when can we do it again?' ... It was very well received."
But promoting personal responsibility among event attendees could prove a challenge to implementing the model permanently.
"My group kept talking about how people should throw their own trash away," said Vivian Swayne, an undecided sophomore, who participated during the Nov. 23 clean up. "No one should have to sift through the endless remnants of a game in Neyland. ... Respect was something we talked about, too. Do people respect the venue? Respect their school? I certainly respect whoever UT has clean up after the next game."
Still a new system, Nelson plans to hold smaller events to work out the kinks of coordinating the cleanups.
"We're trying to get our feet wet in a smaller venue now and go through the baseball season, and then the track season," Nelson said. "And then perhaps do a concert at Thompson-Boling. And I really wouldn't look to go back to football until the 2015 season."
Students also have an opportunity to work as a student manager, responsible for coordinating the students at the cleanups.
Those interested in applying can contact Gordon Nelson at email@example.com.