Are We Too Regulated?

Drew Kaplan ‘20, Associate Opinion Editor

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I’ve been at Dickinson for just over a year now, and there have been many times I’ve found myself sitting down with a professor to shoot the breeze. Whether I know the professor through a class, club, or both, I have always found great appreciation in sitting down with them, and one thing I’ve heard from multiple professors that has ceaselessly astounded me was the lack of restrictions their colleges placed on them.

I’ve had a professor tell that when, in undergrad, if his frat wanted to have a party, they could order kegs in the morning, and have them delivered for a party with hundreds of people that evening. I have had another professor, who is a Dickinson grad, tell of climbing up the side of Drayer Hall his freshman year. He also tells multiple stories from his fraternity; the actions he describes, if they occurred today, would likely get him or the entire frat expelled.

It strikes me that those of the previous generation were allowed such latitude, while, as it seems to me, we are allowed so little.

To speak of parties, our Department of Public Safety has no way in which a party may be registered. This results in, because many parties involve alcohol, a culture where parties must happen under the radar, and should anything go wrong, to report a student would either jeopardize or shut down the entire party. By forcing students who wish to drink to do so clandestinely, it encourages an unhealthy drinking culture.

Events where alcohol is present may be registered through SLCE, however both registration and compliance are onerous, and provide no tangible benefits; they are still subject to DPS raids. Although the college does have an alcohol/drug amnesty program, the offer of amnesty only extends to, and I quote from the Community Standards, “reporting student [or] the student at risk” and only if the reporting student gives their full name, amongst other conditions. Other colleges, such as Franklin & Marshall, allow students to register parties with their respective campus police; because the college is aware of parties with alcohol, and choose to not break them up under the guise of “law enforcement,” it encourages students to report it if someone is in danger, for they won’t fear jeopardizing the group, and possibly inviting sanction for themselves, all present, or their organization.

I feel that this issue of clandestine drinking most effects our Greek organizations. United Press International ran an article on October 3, 1989, detailing an incident that occurred at a fraternity which bears striking resemblance to the incident that occurred at Penn State in February. The college in this case responded with a ban of all “rush activities” for all Greek organizations. The college uses its conduct process to promote “student learning, accountability, [and] integrity.” However, the way it goes about “emphasizing” these goals does not promote these concepts. Should a student violate their standards, the college may issue a wide range of sanctions, from a slap on the wrist to full expulsion. One sanction-able offense is participation in a Greek organization which the college does not recognize.

The Sentinel published an article on May 11, 2006 detailing a lawsuit filed by members of the Sigma Chi fraternity, which was unrecognized by Dickinson, in 2004, after members were not listed on the Dean’s List despite meeting the requirements. The suit alleged that students were barred from the Dean’s List because of their membership in Sigma Chi. In February of that year, the college warned current members that they would face suspension or expulsion if they attempted to recruit new members. The college alleged that, because Dickinson College is a private institution, they were under no obligation to associate themselves with the fraternity, and as students choose to associate with the college, they expected students to not associate with Sigma Chi. I fear that this may happen to other organizations.

It seems to me that the college, in its attempt to regulate alcohol on campus, has taken  far from reasonable measures. Parties and fraternities/sororities seem to be natural for a college, along with the associated drinking. This seemed to be common knowledge years ago. Previously, it was known that we, the students, could be trusted to avoid the extreme stupidity which is pinned on us today. The 21st birthday is considered to be a line in the sand; a black and white divider. However, in reality, everything is just shades of grey. The college’s insistence on enforcing an untenable regulation, and their sanction of entire organizations for the actions of an individual, breeds a culture of fear which is not conducive to a healthy learning environment.

The college needs to re-evaluate its stance on underage drinking, its stance on parties and its relationship with outside organizations. There is nothing inherently wrong with a fraternity or sorority, but when they become the sole outlet for underage students who wish to consume alcohol, things may go wrong. However, when they do, it cannot be blamed on the organization as a whole. If students do commit an egregious act, they should be punished as individuals rather than a blanket punishment be laid against the group. Any attempt to regulate students’ personal lives is bound to end in failure, and the college policies currently in place cultivate a culture which promotes and hides drinking to a dangerous extent, sanctions students for an act only malum prohibidum, and sanctions entire organizations because of the actions of the few. It is time for this to change.

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