23 October 2009 Tap Water Gives Catholic Student Herpes
Last night, the local news ticker noted that Catholic University in Washington, D.C. is constructing the largest solar panel capability in the district. A short while later, I ran into three friends from Catholic whom had heard the news. None were enthused.
“Yeah, I heard,” said the Floridian, “and there’s a ton of shit the school should be spending money on before they do the solar thing.”
“…like the nasty-ass water that comes out of the faucets,” replied the Floridian.” I laughed, but his classmates looked grim.
“That’s no joke, man,” said the weightlifter. “I started out drinking the water just normal…out of the tap, and my mouth filled up with canker sores.”
“Oh yeah,” he continued. “It wasn’t until I got one of those Brita filters that my mouth cleared up and the sores went away.”
While I didn’t pursue the subject any further with the students, I couldn’t help but ponder Catholic’s decision. On the one hand, one could argue that solarizing the university benefits the whole of humanity by reducing its facilities’ emission of pollutants (its “carbon footprint”?). But on the other hand, either making the necessary improvements to the university’s water supply or purchasing enough Brita filters for students affected by the water supply’s shortcomings promotes the student body’s well-being. This, in turn, could have several affects that also benefit the whole of humanity. For example, reducing (or even, eliminating) the risk of water-borne maladies augments the individual and collective academic potential of Catholic’s student body. That is, my friend’s mouthful of herpes was a districting discomfort that bred a fearful preoccupation that it seems reasonable to assume could be distracting. If reading Goethe weren’t already a hurdle for the average American attention span, reading Goethe thirsty with a fresh corrosive virus feasting on your gums and inner-cheek seems likely to be even more-so.
The point here is that it benefits a society to optimize the conditions for its students to absorb and engage with their respective coursewares. This can be especially true at the university level where many students develop the foundational knowledge and skills they need to assimilate into the employment world, where they are (ostensibly) charged with producing, maintaining, or improving something. Since Catholic University’s most-important function is outputting competent, moral alumni contributors to society (read: to the whole of humanity), should the university improve its tap water before building its solar energy supply? Which is the moral choice here?