Opinion

Downtown ‘take-over’ draws attention to lack of communication

By Patrick English '15

September 16, 2013

This weekend, Hamilton made national news. No, I’m not talking about the newly published 2014 U.S. News and World Report College Rankings.

On Tuesday, September 10, the Associated Press published a brief post referring to an encounter between “about 300 Hamilton College students” and the Kirkland Police.

While the relationship between our college and the Village of Clinton has always been contentious, it really does seem to be getting worse.

It is easy to blame the students, who, on this particular night were described as “rowdy” and “unruly” to the point where they “took over the village.” After all, off-campus housing is a privilege, not a right. If we want to keep these houses as viable options for Hamilton students, we have to work with the college and the village of Clinton.

Their rules are not unreasonable; in fact, they are exactly what one would expect from a small village dealing with two thousand college students that live just up the hill. They do not want them spilling into the town and disrupting their evenings or trespassing on private property.

They are nice enough to allow us to have off-campus housing; at the very least we should repay them with a little respect.

The administration is not blameless in this situation, though. Because the Social Space Lottery doesn’t take place until the second weekend of school, all-campus parties don’t begin until the third. That being said, campus offers students few social alternatives for their weekend evenings, leading them often to venture into town at night.

One way to prevent this from happening is introducing all-campus parties earlier in the semester.

While alcohol by no means should be the main focus of all on-campus events, it seems preferable from a safety and oversight standpoint for the College to host events that involve alcohol on the Hill. Had there been more socially inclined events on campus—even non-alcoholic events—this situation could have been avoided.

Regardless of whose fault this was, Kirkland Police Chief Dan English says, “Charges are pending,” while “College officials are also looking into the incident.” The College’s relationship with the village seems to be getting worse, and this may mean it is time for the College to make some changes in off-campus housing. The fallout from this incident could certainly become a point of tension at Hamilton, and in the village of Clinton, over the next few months.

It would be best if none of the parties involved—the village, the administration or the students—jumped to quick decisions before receiving input from everyone.

However, if the First Year Experience and the Greek Life pledging changes provide any background, they show that Hamilton’s administration does not do a great job of consulting its students.

In fact, the Hamilton administration might as well be inaccessible for the average Hamilton student. They make little-to-no effort to interact with the community, and when approached, they are stubborn in their decisions.

I will not bore you with the details of the housing lottery, the First Year Experience and Greek Life changes, but suffice it to say that the administration did not look for much input from the student body before making these decisions.

This makes it our place as students to take this issue up with the administration, instead of waiting for them to come to us.

In these situations, proactivity is almost always the best solution. If we can reason with the administration through Student Assembly before any decisions are made, we are much more likely to come out on top than if we wait.

I challenge every Hamilton student to take this issue head-on. I do not know what the administration has in store after this incident, but I know we probably will not like it.

Therefore, we must make our voice heard now, before it is too late.

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