Allergic to the Campus

By: Wolfgang Vondey
Tuesday, April 10th, 2012

It’s allergy season. If you have not noticed, because you spent most of your time in the classroom or on the couch with your iPad, you just have to come on campus. Pick any university, any college, and you’ll be greeted by the sound of the mowers and, soon, the smell of cut grass, weeds, and pollen. 55% of Americans test positive for allergies (source: WebMD). So let’s say roughly half of the campus suffers during allergy season. Sure, people with allergies suffer everywhere. But for some inexplicable reason, this suffering seems to increase when on campus.

Allergy symptoms are often higher indoors than outside. We track pollen and dust and carry it with us in our hair and clothes. The concentration of pollen is high in the classroom–a closed environment we cannot escape. As a result we suffer at school and await nothing more than to escape. As I am writing this, the smell of freshly cut grass invades my office on campus. It is mowing day. Well, really, that is not a special day. Any day is mowing day here. Mowers go Monday through Friday, rain or shine, short grass or tall grass. I keep wondering, do we really have to mow all the time? But more importantly, is there any consideration of those who suffer from seasonal allergies? Last week I was approached by a student with a box of tissues and asked if exam time could be scheduled outside of mowing time. Having exams during the spring semester in April and May with the mowers at full blast leaves a mark on many students’ capacity to perform. Before I even finished the last sentence, I hear some sneezing next door and down the hall. The mowers are still going strong. Actually, they are pretty loud as well, and last semester students asked me if I could go outside and request that mowing be suspended during a midterm. I got a bewildered look from the man on the riding mower, but they moved on to a different location–always tracking a dust cloud along. Oh, and have you ever tried lecturing for hours during allergy season when you are suffering from hay fever?

So what can we do about allergy season on campus? Do you suffer from allergies? What is your experience? What is your solution? 

Do you think it is necessary to mow every day? Would it not save cost to mow less? Does it not benefit the grass as well? Do we prefer an English lawn on campus at the cost of a sniffling, sneezing, and generally miserable half of the campus population?

Of course, I am wondering about the proper response from a Christian perspective. Something along the lines of: mowing in and of itself is not evil, but if it offends your neighbor…

I am just thinking out loud here, so please give me your feedba…       sorry, gotta grab a tissue…


Wolfgang Vondey
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One Response to “Allergic to the Campus”

  1. Mike Sisson says:

    I was pretty oblivious to this until a few years ago when I was diagnosed with seasonal skin allergies. I don’t sniffle and sneeze, I itch and scratch. Mowing is tormenting to me. Then my wife found out she’s basically allergic to God’s entire outdoors. I certainly don’t think that mowing every week (let alone each day) is necessary for the vast swaths of grass. Every 10-14 days should keep the grass under control and save money at the same time. It’s a green solution!

    My neighbor and I joke each year about just getting concrete poured and painting it green. If only….