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Great pictures, uglier outcomes: The Miami community reacts to confetti all over campus

Confetti litters the ground around the seal, a popular spot for graduation photos.
Confetti litters the ground around the seal, a popular spot for graduation photos.

Graduation season is in full swing at Miami University. Under the Upham Arch and in front of the seal, the class of 2024 is taking photos to capture the excitement of their accomplishments. However, one popular element of these photoshoots has become controversial.

In recent years, photos featuring confetti being thrown over graduates have become a tradition. Often students also pop bottles of champagne to celebrate their journeys, leaving the ground covered in a mess of sticky plastic. 

Lieutenant Lara Fening of the Oxford Police Department (OPD) has made Facebook posts about the confetti’s negative impacts for three years in a row and said it’s been a relatively recent phenomenon. 

“I don't know if it had been bad leading up to that point, but something in 2020 changed,” she said. 

The confetti left behind by these shoots is often not biodegradable and clings to curbs, grass and ditches on Miami’s campus and all over Uptown. When it rains, the confetti is swept into storm sewers and goes on to pollute streams and rivers in the Oxford area. 

Despite education efforts, people seeing other graduates toss confetti inspires them to do the same. 

“When I approached some students that were up in front of Brick Street, and I saw that they had boxes ready to go and I'm like, ‘don't do it,’ they tell me that everyone else does it,” Fening said. 

Legal action has not yet been taken against any individuals for leaving behind confetti, but the potential for such action exists. Fening said that although she sympathizes with the focus graduating students have on getting the perfect picture, putting on these photoshoots Uptown can have you penalized for littering. 

“I've been really trying to make a more educational campaign about this, just asking people to do the right thing,” Fening said. “This isn't about crushing enforcement, as if we're going to crush violators. I'm asking for compliance because it’s the right thing to do. There are other options to make the pictures festive.” 

Photo by Sarah Frosch | The Miami Student
Confetti sticks to the ground Uptown.

However, not all of this year’s graduating class has taken part in confetti sprays. Some, like senior zoology major James Normile, don’t understand the appeal. 

“I know that the impact that it can have, not only on the confetti polluting the area or like the champagne being sticky, but I just don't think it’s super necessary,” Normile said. 

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Normile is the current president of the Miami American Conservation Association (ACA), a campus organization that aims to prepare students with the ability and knowledge to act on environmental issues. 

“We're talking about trying to do advocacy and providing a sustainable option, using eco-friendly confetti, instead of a plastic or a dyed paper,” Normile said. “But we never really got to do that. As well as just the costs for it are a lot higher than regular confetti.” 

The efforts of environmental groups like the ACA and OPD are important steps in coming up with sustainable solutions to celebrate graduation, but individual decisions carry a heavy weight. 

When choosing a way to commemorate your accomplishments at Miami, remember to do so in a manner that keeps the campus and city we live in pollution-free.