Greene: A campus guide to door etiquette

(Jannik Ehret/Emerald)

At the University of Oregon, we pride ourselves on tackling problems head on, creating not just informed students but critical citizens. But, while UO is addressing social issues like “cultural competency training,” food security and rape culture, there is a much more pressing issue facing the student body that we turn a blind eye to every day – door etiquette, or, more specifically, a lack thereof.

Doors are all over this campus. I literally have to pass through one every time I arrive in or leave a classroom. And walking into buildings? Forget about it! There are so many doorways in every building: whether we’re talking about Gerlinger Hall with five different haphazardly thrown on entrances, or the EMU taking inspiration from “every door is a new possibility” a little too literally.

Normally, this plethora of entrances wouldn’t be an issue. But something about college seems to wipe out all common sense; every day students are opening the door for peers still yards away, stuck holding the door for an impatient stampede of 450 students and waiting awkwardly around the entrance to Lillis for someone else – anyone else – to open their door.

This constant bewilderment only leads to unnecessary stress in our everyday lives, making cohesive campus door policy a matter of students’ mental health. UO needs to combat this ignorance by dedicating a portion of IntroDucktion to the topic, adding mandatory courses on doorway culture and leadership, and eventually creating a new major, possibly even a graduate program.

In the meantime, here is a quick crash course to help get the ball rolling.

Concerning the mechanics:

If you’re with friends, family or in a professional setting you might stand behind the door and hold it out like a butler of sorts, letting everyone else pass in front of you. Kissing ass around associates is one thing, but on your way to class push the door out behind you and always go first.

This rule might sound cold-hearted, but putting yourself before strangers, in some instances, is healthy and necessary. You never know when life is going to throw a curveball, and you need to make sure you’re on the right side of the door when it does.

Concerning radius of responsibility:

Most people tend to hold the door open for strangers more often than not–that is just the natural tendency of a welcoming campus. The issue is when students get too caught up in their quest for saint-status and start holding the door for people so far away they look like ants.

The UO has created a toxic culture around door protocol.

Nobody wants to be pressured into rushing–or god forbid, running–just for the honor of walking through a door you’re holding. There is a radius of responsibility, and it only extends as far as your wingspan. Basically, if someone isn’t walking up right behind you, ready to catch the door as you move on, they can take care of themselves.

Obviously, there are exceptions, like people with their arms full, the handicapped or frail looking elderly, and anybody you’re trying to start up a conversation with.

Concerning doubts:

Door etiquette can be tricky, especially when campus culture tends to make students feel like holding the door open is part of their contribution to a friendly environment, unintentionally creating a tedious and frustrating atmosphere.

When two people arrive at a door at the same time, who opens it? If there are two doors next to each other, and someone is opening one from the opposite side, do you awkwardly slip through theirs or open your own? If someone opens a door, but you’re not sure if it’s just for their friends or an open invitation, do you still walk through at the risk of making a fool of yourself? The confusion is endless.

Eventually these situations must be studied, but for now, when in doubt, just take responsibility for your own pathway obstruction and assume everyone else can do the same. Doors aren’t that heavy, opening them really doesn’t need to be the group activity we’ve made it into.

Concerning the bottom line:

UO has created a toxic culture around door protocol. Too much weight has been put on holding the door for others, and some people are so used to having doors chivalrously opened for them they’re slowly forgetting the proper technique.  

The only way we can fix this is by starting a conversation, changing our habits and indoctrinating new students with the proper guidelines. We can’t rely on or worry about strangers every time we need to pass through a door. This only leads to chasing our own tails around the building, never getting inside.

A strong open community is important in college; everyone needs a place they can turn to in times of stress, but this is also a time to learn independence, so let’s take charge of our own lives one door at a time.

Follow Patience on Twitter @PatienceAGreene

Video by Sam Sigman and Jannik Eheret 

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