May 3, 2012
This past August, I had the pleasure of being an Orientation Leader (OL) for the Class of 2015. I served with 50 or so devoted individuals as we volunteered our unpaid time to return to campus early and act like adrenaline-fueled crazy people for over a week. All OLs shared two defining traits: We love this school, and we care enough about people we’ve never met to donate our time towards making their entrance to this institution as easy and as fun as possible. Not only that, but we were lucky enough to work directly with Lisa Magnarelli and the Student Activities Office. Lisa and her group of dedicated compatriots work tirelessly to make this campus a more fun, exciting and unique place. Perhaps nowhere is this office as directly noticeable as Orientation, as, over the years, they’ve perfected Orientation week to a tee. And now, suddenly, the purview of this important and complex organization (Orientation Leaders) was shifted to that of Residential Life.
The Office of Residential Life is the single greatest institutional failure currently on this campus. Their main concern is housing and maintaining a successful housing lottery every year. Gender blocking in the suites, meant to ensure fraternities and sororities do not overwhelm either Milbank or Babbitt, hardly ever affect Greeks and almost always ruin the housing plans of independents, especially those with multiple genders in their suite (already an impossibility with gender blocking). The process is overly complex and restrictive with the intention of breaking up Greek life, preventing mass destruction in the suites and making independents more comfortable to live where they choose. This policy is all well and good in theory, but it is staggeringly obvious that it will never work out in practice. Individuals who choose to be destructive will be destructive regardless of Greek affiliation, and friends who want to live together with good enough housing numbers will find a way. Res Life is stuck in their nonsensical and illogical practices that ruin the housing (and, as we all know, friendships) of far too many Hamilton students.
The points system is another area that Res Life is directly responsible for, and is another system that desperately needs reworking. I’m not going to argue for some anarchist solution, but the behavior the points system—combined with Campus Police—promotes is the exact opposite it ought to be promoting. Camp Po loves to break up parties before midnight on Friday and Saturday nights where individuals are relatively safe, drinking beer for the most part, and posing practically no danger to themselves or others. Students are terrified of being caught with an open container of beer underage (two to four total points), so they scamper off at the first sign of an officer. Obviously they are not done drinking because its barely 11 p.m., so they return to their room to take shots behind closed doors instead of drinking safer alcohol in a large group of people. Their resentment at leaving the party and inability to spread drinking throughout the night lead to too many shots, which leads to being EMT’d or worse.
All of this damage is because the points system is designed to hurt individuals who are safe with their drinking: large groups, beer, and long sustained drinking, as opposed to brief and intense drinking. Of course, Res Life should still give points for things that are illegal, but please don’t reward secretive dangerous behavior. Instead, reward open and relatively safe behavior. College students will drink, so don’t enforce rules that require drinking to be stupid and deadly.
I’m not here to vilify the individuals in Residential Life. Travis Hill, Ashley Place, Margaret Di Gennaro, Janine Knight and many other Res Life employees all have glowing support from many people who know them personally. From my experience with them, they are good and intelligent people who truly do want to make this school a safer place. My argument here is that this important and intrinsic office is the result of years of inaccurate and illogical practices that need to be seriously reconsidered, especially if the office is given more purview and power. I’ve had fellow OLs tell me that the tangible changes to Orientation are going to be miniscule and positive, and I have no reason whatsoever to doubt them.
Yet Res Life has proven to many of my friends and I, time and again, that they do not know how to make this school safe, fun and enjoyable for the community at large. They have shown they get joy out of punishment and think the only way to get people to stop behavior is to make punishments for it harsher and harsher, a tactic that our own government has shown to be horribly wrong for hundreds of years. I certainly hope that the changes Res Life makes to orientation do not reflect the authoritarian, dangerous and hurtful practices they promote throughout the school year.