In the past semester, many CMC students have expressed concerns that the social scene and the way students relate to our Dean of Students have significantly diverged from how things used to be. In light of these claims, it is worthwhile to reflect on how our concerns relate to those of students in years past.
In an effort to examine how our current discussions are situated in CMC’s recent history, here are a few of the developments from the Forum’s coverage of our social scene since the publication’s debut in 2008. While far from comprehensive, these events help to shed light on many of the discussions that CMC students carry out today.
“Things Have to Change” — September 16, 2009
At the beginning of Fall 2009, a particularly raucous event raised concerns from the Dean of Students’ Office and prompted a threat of severe changes to the status quo:
On Tuesday evening students were informed via email from their RAs that the semester-opening party events of last weekend were “too crazy,” and that talks yesterday morning between the RAs and the Dean of Students “could have resulted in an indefinitely dry campus”.
The email goes on to imply that the RA’s have stalled any drastic action by DOS, but it also states that “things have to change” if CMCers are going to be able to enjoy the alcohol-related privileges they currently have.
That was more than four years ago, and we still hear a similar message from student leaders, resident assistants, and administrators alike whenever a party seems to go beyond some hard-to-define standard of acceptability to the College. The author quotes an RA from the Class of 2010 saying that “The culture needs to be where it was five years ago.” Whatever things were like then, we’re now nine years down the road from it.
In the comments, an alum going by “recent grad” argued that the gradual changes on campus resulted from disintegrating trust between students and the administration:
[The alcohol] policy is great because it requires and fosters trust between the students and the DOS. They give us fair policy and trust us to drink, we drink responsibly and trust them to be fair. This trust, however, has been threatened by the DOS for the past several years.
Lets be honest though, DOS calls the shots not us. The only reason this symbiotic trust exists is because they allow it to. However, the shots they’ve been calling as of late have been threatening that trust in my mind, and when the trust starts to disappear, the students feel less obligation to fulfill their end of the bargain (safe, on campus drinking) disappears.
TNC Indefinitely Suspended — Spring/Fall 2010
Many students worry that the environment at parties feels cloistered because of the preponderance of fencing and security present. For TNC, however, some of these measures did not always exist. In March of 2010, the Dean of Students suspended the weekly Thursday night event, TNC (Thursday Night Club), after deans discovered that the party did not always conform to its registered description.
Students returned from spring break in 2010 to an email from ASCMC explaining the suspension and the steps to be taken going forward. They wrote that the expansion of TNC from a small-scale event to a larger party was a significant cause for the deans’ concerns about the event’s propriety:
TNC isn’t what it used to be: Once upon a time, TNC was a magical event for CMCers. Dorm presidents were responsible for creating an intimate event that facilitated small-scale social interaction. It was an opportunity for students to talk, dance, and relax from the workweek. Recently, however, things have changed. After the party ends, students congregate outside and campus safety isn’t capable of keeping things safe with such a large, usually rowdy, group.
This announcement came just following the elections of ASCMC officers for the 2010-2011 school year. Dean of Students Mary Spellman cited the enormity and frequency of the damages to campus that resulted from TNC as a key reason for the suspension. In response, the newly elected Dorm Affairs Chair submitted a proposal of changes to TNC that would make it more amenable. In order to accommodate the deans’ concerns, the proposal, which they accepted, included the boosted security measures that concern many students today.
“The first step is to increase security,” said [Dorm Affairs Chair Alexander] Reichert. “The second step is to be more stringent on who we allow into our parties.” Reichert noted that TNCs would be smaller, and strictly CMC-only, with a possibility of a guest list for friends of CMCers from the other four colleges… All TNCs will now card at the door for CMC identification, and will be fenced off. “Fencing sets a precedent,” Reichert added. “These parties can’t just be open and sprawling.”
The next fall, DOS suspended TNC once again after deans discovered that one of the semester’s first Thursday night events had three kegs, rather than the one that had been registered for the party. DOS purported to have consistently enforced the College’s policies, but representatives from ASCMC charged the deans with subverting the agreed-upon standards for events by making drastic changes to enforcement in lieu of changing the policies themselves.
ASCMC officials admit to having purchased three kegs for the party, and say more than one has typically been purchased in the past. But campus security has never cared, and de facto policy has been to let additional kegs—for a group of students almost always larger than anticipated and registered—to go unnoticed…
“Everything done on Thursday night was the same protocol we have followed for years,” Dorm Affairs Chair Alexander Reichert said. “So we’ve been living with this area of gray for a long time. Now DOS wants to make it more black and white.”
This divide between the rules as they are written and the rules as they are practiced seems to have served alternatively as a source of harmony and one of discord between students and administrators, depending on which way enforcement leaned. Many students, then and now, have held the belief that the best balance to strike is to have official policies in place to protect the College from liability in the case of something disastrous, but to otherwise practice enforcement in a way that, first and foremost, promotes the students’ safety over the College’s legal concerns. This was one of the key points made by former ASCMC President Aditya Pai ’13 last Spring, when he released an open letter to College officials critiquing what he saw as a move towards the liability-safe side of that spectrum at the expense of student wellbeing.
Students responded to the September 2010 suspension in the comments section with critiques of both ASCMC’s and DOS’s actions, and addressed the general trends they saw emerging from what had happened. One student wrote:
As a Scripps senior who knows a thing or two about stringent alcohol policies, I can tell you from personal experience that when people aren’t a) provided with alcohol at parties, and b) able to drink out in the open, they do hole up in their rooms and binge drink…at the very least they attempt to get hammered enough before going out to stay drunk all night. Those who can go off campus to drink—this is how people end up in the hospital/dead. …I think people are right to be worried about the apparent crackdown coming from CMC administration.
Thesis Fountain Party Canceled… For a Day — March 29–30, 2010
On March 29, 2010, just days after the initial suspension of TNC, the then-Senior Class President sent an email to the Senior class announcing that “the Dean of Students Office decided to end the Senior Thesis Champagne Fountain Party” due to complaints from professors and underclassmen. He added, “I’ve talked to Jim [Nauls] about this several times, and the Dean of Students have made up their mind and are ending this tradition for good.”
The next day, then-Vice President for Student Affairs Jeff Huang emailed the student body with a message regarding the initial concerns about the fountain party, but announced that the tradition would be allowed to continue. After meeting with representatives from the senior class, Dean Huang wrote, “We have agreed to let the Senior Thesis Fountain Party continue, in its old location, but simply want those participating to be respectful of others and noise issues.” Huang also took the opportunity to acknowledge that coming off of the suspension of TNCs, “it feels like we have tinkered with many social traditions lately.”
To prove to students that he was not anti-tradition, Dean Huang promised to personally toast the seniors at the Fountain Party that semester.
Despite Dean Huang’s message, concerns remained. On the 30th, a student wrote an opinion piece arguing that “The Fountain Party fiasco represents only the tip of the iceberg of student discontent” and that “this year, the administration, led by the Dean of Students, has launched a concerted attack on CMC’s culture by canceling or amending many traditions.” Much of the author’s concerns echo those voiced by students this semester after the deans disbanded a Saturday night gathering in North Quad following the cancelation of the scheduled dodgeball tournament. The editorial’s author concluded his piece by reflecting on what defines “the CMC experience”:
[T]he administration’s approach seems guided by an overall strategy of trying to end CMC’s “party culture.” Way back in September, the administration met with RAs about semester-opening party events, stated that “things have to change,” and even threatened to turn CMC into a dry campus. If this is the administration’s strategy, they are highly unlikely to succeed… Students are capable of self-policing and feel comfortable criticizing their peers’ poor judgment. For most of its history, CMC has successfully discouraged drunk driving and alcohol poisonings by holding large, on-campus parties with a lax alcohol policy where students feel free to seek help if they need it. We absolutely should preserve this aspect of the CMC experience.
With Alcohol Policy, Tradition Succumbs to Ebb and Flow — October 3, 2010
In a comprehensive overview of the year’s changes regarding the social culture, the Forum published another piece in October 2010 reviewing the status of the social climate as it then stood. In it, the ASCMC President at the time was quoted as saying, “I think there’s a deeper meaning behind every action they’ve taken… I think ASCMC needs to be very cautious about what DOS is doing.”
Since 2010, the Forum has published many more articles covering changes to social life and event policies, and following students’ opinions on those changes. Similar concerns appear throughout, which begs the question: Is our ongoing debate surrounding the social scene at CMC making any substantive progress, or are we simply getting caught in a cyclical battle that constantly resets as students come and go, staying to make their case for only four years at a time?
As always, the Forum would love to hear your thoughts in the comments section below or through the submission of an opinion piece to firstname.lastname@example.org.