I do not know if the majority of the student body knows about the letter sent from President Tiefenthaler and Dean of Students Mike Edmonds to the senior class before the start of Block 8, but given the tone and content of their letter, it merits publication and response.
The letter begins with the statement, “We take our commitment to serve as a positive, contributing member of the surrounding community very seriously.” As discussed extensively in last week’s issue, administrative dealings with the Leechpit refute this claim.
While the Leech Pit harms a few families within the community, a more direct example of CC as a detriment to the community is the repossession of the 918, 922, 928, and 930 Weber properties. Those houses, especially 922, were a space for off-campus parties. Because these houses are close to the campus , students were less disruptive to their neighbors. By purchasing these houses, the school has taken away one of the central party locations while not providing an alternative space.
Demand for parties has not decreased, yet we have cut supply. As a result, more parties are occurring farther from campus and the disturbance to the surrounding community is increasing. This change in policy is directly harmful to the Colorado Springs community.
There is also a misperception of the off-campus student body’s general beliefs. The letter states, “The majority of our off-campus students share this ethic and we thank you for being such kind and respectful neighbors.” This statement misunderstands the dynamic of off-campus living. Essentially, it implies that those students who throw parties are deliberately bad neighbors, while the rest of us have a common value of neighborliness. A more accurate way to think about who is a good neighbor is that there is an structural bias that dictates whose houses are more or less likely to be a source of disturbance.
Those of us who are good neighbors are free riders. The houses that are larger and closer to campus are better for parties and therefore, the students that live in these houses are more likely to run into conflict with their neighbors. But just because I live in a small house and am farther off campus, meaning that people are less likely to want to party in my house, does not make me a better neighbor than the seniors that live in party houses. I am just not in the right location to be a disturbance. Additionally, since the seniors who live off campus frequent the aforementioned party houses, we are, in fact, a part of the disruptive behavior and cannot be considered guiltless at all. Geographic bias, and not altruism or better morals, is what has determined who are and aren’t good neighbors.
The next issue is the definition of the “Block 8 Experience.” President Tiefenthaler states that, “The College will not accept disruptive parties as a justified part of the ‘Block 8 Experience’.” This statement reads like it was written by someone who has forgotten what it feels like to be on the verge of graduating from college. At least for me, the Block 8 experience is a celebration of the relationships you have developed over the past four years at this great school. Unfortunately, large parties are one of the more popular ways to remember these relationships.
In a small party, the people that are invited are friends that have been around throughout your four years. A large party allows you to see the people you have almost forgotten about. It could be running into someone from your FYE or from cramming for a neuroscience final. Either way, these parties are a great chance to catch up with people you otherwise would not have said good-bye to.
I would also like to call attention to how the seniors will be punished for disruptive behavior. The letter states, “While we want you to have fun, we also want you to be respectful. In past years, some seniors have not modeled positive behavior and the consequence has sometimes excluded them from commencement.”
This threat primarily harms our families while trying to shame students into behaving. We will still graduate with a diploma and all, but our parents will be upset. Instead of trying to solve the problem of students disrupting the community, President Tiefenthaler is deferring to the ire of parents. For example, if Colorado College really cared about the surrounding community, maybe our punishment should be community service. Instead, President Tiefenthaler threatens to ruin your graduation and strain your relationship with your parents to fix a misperceived image problem.
The final issue is the statement, “Remember that we have resources to help you plan and host appropriate parties and refer you to the Student Life webpage.” Again, if one wanted to throw a party for 20 people, it would be easy to avoid problems with the neighbors. The sober host policies and the rest of the ResLife suggestions do not solve the issues with having an all-campus party. The reality is that there is a history of conflict between students and the surrounding community regarding parties. This problem is not new and is the inevitable byproduct of having a large number of young people in the same place.
What makes this school so special is the work hard/play hard ethos of the student body. We are excellent students that spend our weekends shredding pow, climbing 14ers, and rock scalin’. However, part of the pursuit of excellence is also an inevitable specialization that separates students based on their majors and hobbies. Partying may not be the most wholesome of activities, but it is a prevalent part of this community that brings all of us together. To all of my friends and the graduating seniors, thanks for making the past four years great, and to those reading this that are not going to graduate just yet, please fight to keep this place weird, and never cut your hair.
Editor’s note: Jill’s article is publicly available at http://www.catalystnewspaper.com