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Monday, Mar 4, 2024

Editorial - 04/29/10

Recently, President of the College Ronald D. Liebowitz invited The Campus alcohol columnist Mike Waters ’10 to engage in a discussion about the problems ailing Middlebury’s social life and the potential for a cure.

This type of discussion is an encouraging step in the process of student-administration relations, and it is enormously reassuring to know that our president is aware of and responsive to our concerns as students.

Unfortunately, the prospect of real change resulting from this meeting is low. With College policy at the root of many of our social life complaints, and Vermont State Law at the root of the College policies, there is frustratingly little any of us — whether a student columnist or the College president — can do to reshape campus social life to our desires.

It is endlessly disappointing that logical changes that would increase quality of student life, maximize our resources and promote safety are impeded not by any internal resistance, but by distant and external forces. There remain, however, a few things we can do, and if we realign our community’s main goal, potentially with new superblocks leading the charge, around the idea of safety and simplicity, those few simple changes become necessary and apparent.

First, the party registration system must reward students who engage with it rather than punish them. Though reports of its complicated and convoluted nature may be exaggerations, the party registration system could undoubtedly be simplified.

For example, if it were mandatory for super bock residents to complete the necessary training to be a party host, it would eliminate the hassle of doing this mid-semester, and widely publicizing party host workshops would increase attendance in general.

We support the reasons behind party registration and embrace the positive impact it could have on the campus social scene.

First, however, students must stop feeling like they are jumping through hoops and being penalized for cooperating with the administration and Public Safety.

Second, Public Safety must alter its mission from the prevention-oriented practice of handing out citations that it currently engages in to a safety-oriented method in which party control is the ultimate goal. Of course, it is absolutely within Public Safety’s responsibility and duty to cite an underage drinker — in fact, you could argue that the more underage drinkers they cite, the better they are at their job.

However, we argue that it can be a waste of resources if citing underage drinkers takes precedent over crowd control and safety. Officers should focus on overall party safety: a belligerently drunk senior, who looks like he or she might not make it home, is a much more serious threat than a controlled and stable sophomore with a drink in his or her hand.

If we can all accept that underage drinking will happen in some form on a college campus, whether behind closed doors or at larger parties where drinking is not even the main attraction, then Public Safety can shift its priority from prevention to intervention — making sure drinking is occurring in a safe environment, that people are in control and that if there is an emergency, it is dealt with properly. This change in priorities would undoubtedly lead to a safer overall party scene, something both students and administration can get behind.

What seems clear is that while massive policy overhaul is unlikely to occur, it is within our power as an institution to shift our goals and attitudes toward a thriving, but safe, campus social life.

Students, the administration and Public Safety have inherently different goals with regard to social life, but it is possible to find common ground toward which we can work in order to foster a satisfactory state of campus social life for all parties (no pun intended).