Students speak out – is anybody listening?

Janie Ondracek

Last Thursday, we students had the opportunity to attend a “forum” in which the staff was answerable to the decisions regarding the senior dinner and party. For those not acquainted with this controversial topic, essentially a decision was made to close the campus bar on the evening of the senior dinner and to charge money for drinks at the dinner itself. It was thought that by doing this, seniors would not vomit on professors, get naked, or be uncomfortable during the evening’s festivities. On Thursday, as I ran from a previous meeting, I entered the forum much like a child who wanders into the middle of a movie – quickly trying to acquaint myself with the topics at hand and determine what had already been discussed. Though I missed half of the forum, and a good deal of background information, everyone’s mood became quickly obvious – tempers flared and defensive retorts abounded.

From my understanding, the members of staff and faculty who were in front of us were perceived as the proverbial “culprits” – we students were pissed that these decisions had been made, as far as we could tell, without any student input whatsoever.

We discovered that neither the seniors from last year nor the seniors of this year were questioned for their opinion. Instead, five staff members, several of whom work regularly with students, were asked to meet during the summer of 2003 and make suggestions about what to do with the 2004 graduating seniors to prevent these recurring problems. These suggestions were presented to the administrative staff, and the decision was handed down: no easily accessible liquor on the night of the senior dinner.

As one could imagine, the whole debate ignites tempers. I have heard my peers complain that we are being treated like children by the administration – expected to quietly obey what some of us feel is an unfair punishment for another class’s actions. Some perceive from members of the involved staff a general dissatisfaction, or perhaps annoyance, at the idea of having to deal with this subject again and again. The phrase “They screwed up and now they have to cover their asses,” has certainly also come up. In general, perhaps it boils down to the fact that we students feel affronted that staff members feel they can so easily speak for us and come to decisions with which we so strongly disagree.

On the other hand, there may be some truth to the “with age comes wisdom” sentiment. Though perhaps all I may want to do on the night previously known as senior streak is to get plastered, I’m sure there are those who don’t, and coupled with a variety of safety issues, bad media, and security problems, there are potentially better alternatives.

On that note, I am enthusiastic about the staff’s eventual agreement to work with a committee of students to create a potentially better alternative. Though Dean Truesdell emphasizes that nothing may very well come of this, I appreciate that the staff agrees that students should have a say in such decision making processes, and I hope to see an honest interest from the involved staff in coming to a happy compromise.