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TCU Magazine "Class Notes"  

Dispensing wisdom

It happens far too frequently: An e-mail message meant for one inadvertently goes to another. But when a note from a physical plant employee landed in every faculty mail box on campus, portions of the resulting "conversation" found its way into the Feb. 21 issue of The Chronicle of Higher Education. The following are highlights from the messages sent.

---Original Message---
From: Woody Bruner
To: TCU All Faculty
Subject: Paper-towel dispenser in Rickel 164

I have turned in a work order for a towel dispenser adjacent to the sink. The standard dispenser that TCU orders is quite large. I wanted to make sure you were aware of the size of this thing before we screw it to the wall. It is about 14" wide, 15" deep, and sticks out from the wall 10"

From: Neil Easterbrook, English
Because of the obvious importance of this issue, I suggest that we add a three-credit required course in "Paper Towel Dispenser Awareness."

From: Elaine Robinson, theology and Methodist studies
Actually, towel dispensers loom large in Methodist history. John Wesley established a little-known ritual that is considered by scholars to be a combination of the "Hanging of the Greens" and a hand washing (in lieu, of course, of the much-maligned foot-washing ritual), in which the dispenser is hung, hands are washed, and the towel is shared by the community. Charles Wesley wrote a little-known hymn to accompany the festival, entitled "Now Let Us All Dispense With Thee."

From: Gregg Franzwa, philosophy
Elaine's account, while fascinating, is completely apocryphal. The Methodist hymn was in fact entitled "Now Let Us All Dispense With Glee," reflecting, of course, a fundamental tenet of Protestantism. The problem with her hasty interpretation, as is so often the case in religious scholarship, is one of insufficient attention to the original documents. Let me call attention in particular to the sentence, "I wanted to make sure you were aware of the size of this thing before we screw it to the wall." Some might also take this to be a veiled reference to a supposed conversation reported in The Books of Adam and Eve. But in fact it is a partial quotation from an early Florentine interior decorator noted in the History of Real Large Italian Art.

From: Clayton Brown, history
Towel dispensers have figured prominently in modern U.S. history. During the Depression, Secretary of the Interior Harold Ickes would carefully use only one towel after washing his hands, following his philosophy to hold down government spending. By contrast, the head of the Federal Emergency Relief Administration, Harry Hopkins, would purposely waste towels, using as many as 15 to 20, to dry his hands. Hopkins felt it was best to spend money lavishly as a means of stimulating the economy.

From: Lewis Glaser, Graphic Design
Paper towels are available in a variety of colors and decorator motifs. One may use the appropriate design to accentuate the mood, "feel," or even to reinforce a brand identity, or to create empathy...In any case, what better place to repeat the company logo, having a captive audience and all.

From: William R. Billingsley, psychology
Obsessive thoughts and ritual compulsions associated with hand washing, hand drying, and towel dispensers are often associated with anxiety disorders.

From: Art Busbey, geology
I can't speak to the importance of paper-towel dispensers in geologic time (australopithecine fossil sites are notoriously free of dispensers of any sort), but it is common knowledge that they were developed, along with the first garden weasels, by the Etruscans and were "stolen" by the Romans in about 420 BC.

From: Steve Quinn, economics
As long as we are on a roll ... Economics tells us that we need not worry. If the invisible hand wanted a paper-towel dispenser in Rickel 164, then it would put a paper-towel dispenser in Rickel 164.

From: David Gunn, religion
Actually, as usual, the Bible can claim priority. It is not well known that what Moses received on Mount Sinai were not stone tablets but a papyrus-roll dispenser (Hebrew luhot ha'even [tablets of stone], an obvious scribal corruption of Egyptian *lohetha 'e[w]en [dispenser of writing material]). Moses dispensed and God then wrote upon the papyrus with fiery fingers (sometimes mistakenly termed "the invisible hand") the Ten Commandments. This mistake about the tablets is the one small flaw in Cecil B. DeMille's film depicting the event.

From: Andy Haskett, KTCU-FM
I've got far too much work on my platter
For this bathroom dimensional chatter
Besides I'm confused
And my ego is bruised
Because I thought that size didn't matter

From: Wesley Bridges, E-Business
I didn't realize how many people cared as deeply as I do about paper towel dispensation. There must be a business opportunity here...please see http://tandy.sbu.tcu.edu/~bridges/resources/dispenser/dispenser.asp.

From: Linda Moore, social work
While I am impressed at the number of us actually here on a Friday, I must ask the bigger question: What about the well being of OTHER paper-towel dispensers on campus? Are we forgetting about them and their needs? Where are they hung, and are they excluded or ostracized because they don't meet the expectations of the physical plant? How can we, as ethical leaders, empower all dispensers, especially those that are vulnerable or oppressed for reasons beyond their control?

From: Giri Akkaraju, biology
In what I certainly hope is the last word on the subject, I must add on behalf of all my biologically inclined colleagues that the amount of paper used up by these much-analyzed dispensers results in the destruction of acres of Amazonian rain forest. The area is comparable in size to 8.75 football fields of wood products per day. (Brazilian football fields, each one of which as you all no doubt know is equivalent to 0.75 American football fields.)