Well, I’ll admit it. I’m mostly a square, a straight-laced student who doesn’t spend a lot of his time breaking the rules. I also tend to spend my weekends watching movies and playing Cranium, generally avoiding the whole partying scene. Having lived in Potter Hall and currently enjoying an apartment in the Whites, I’ve been privileged to watch stampedes of party-goers for the last year. They confidently stroll down the street a little after dark, the guys in trendy suits and the girls click-clacking on the pavement with their 6-inch heels and not much else. I’m starting to get used to the flashing lights outside my window, too. I’ve begun to grow accustomed to opening blinds and watching Mac PD read people their rights or question a group of red-eyed students. My nights tends to get a lot less boring, especially if I can’t hear them and I do the whole “make up the conversation they might be having” routine with my girlfriend.
I witnessed one such event last night involving a plethora of officers, minors and assorted drunk/high/angry students. There was a lot of yelling and unhappiness, and many of the students felt they were being treated unfairly. I’ll admit I have no great love for authority, and so I naturally took the students side. It wasn’t hard to justify either, since most students behave like normal, intelligent adults at parties. A huge amount of social/responsible drinkers are out there, confused why alcohol is even an issue. For them it’s never been about that. When I occasionally choose to drink (I’m 21), I always question why the drink I’m holding is such a big deal. Aren’t we as students intelligent enough to make our own decisions? Clearly the problem is at hand is not about alcohol, but whether or not teenagers are responsible enough to make their own decisions.
I’m guessing most of my generation would say that they are and most of the generations in authority would say they are not. So what happens? A disjuncture between the generations and rebelliousness against authority. Students no longer care about the law and they no longer care about the consequences. Likewise authorities consider it their solemn duty to stop the lawlessness that’s occurring in houses across America. This is a problem. I can only stand on my side of the tape, but I’m starting to see why the authorities respond so forcefully at times. This is about authority and this is about letting a younger generation understand that they must obey the rules others built before them. Except by doing this they are ensuring this disjuncture continues and are enabling thousands of students to reject their authority. It’s a fine line to walk, but authorities need to connect with those below them respectfully while reminding them they are doing for the community. Too forceful and people get alienated by those trying to protect them.
What I’m implying here is that authorities need to be smarter about how they interact with our students and our generation. Yes, students are going to party and are going to break the law. Instead of charging in every time, perhaps checking in and monitoring a party might be a better idea. Maybe allow a few events to go on and politely ask a few of the crazier get-togethers to disperse. The students are not trying to break the law; they’re trying to have a good time. I’d like for my generation to come into the real world as leaders and as members of society, not as deviants preaching against our system in place. Deal with students as if they were citizens, not as criminals. They’ve been educated for years and years about decision making. Give them a chance to prove it.
Columnist Matt Olson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org