Social Responsibility: A Pragmatic Solution
There have been a lot of discussions on campus lately about social responsibility. Emails from the administration and ASCMC have been filling students’ inboxes with a “social responsibility contract” that supposedly represents the administration “putting the ball back into our court.”
With all the rhetoric that has been thrown around about “social responsibility,” I contend that the administration has lost sight of the current social situation at CMC. It is absolutely ridiculous to expect students to be 100% responsible—a term that now seems to be a code for straight-edge, abstinent, and sitting-in-your-room-and-never-doing-anything. Students at CMC have never claimed to be perfect, and no one should hold them to that standard.
The administration’s call for social responsibility began this past March with the Mirza Summit on Personal and Social Responsibility that sought to address concerns regarding alcohol and substance abuse on CMC’s campus. It is essential to note, however, that CMC has been incredibly safe by any standard of alcohol and drug misuse, especially compared to national statistics among other universities and colleges. Yes, it was tragic that Ali Mirza (CMC ‘15) passed away due to drug misuse, but is this one rare case enough to signify a culture of problematic drug abuse at CMC? Even if the administration believes that it signifies a fundamental shift in CMC’s social scene (which is absolutely ludicrous), the only way that Mirza would have been saved is if CMC posted Campus Security officers in his dorm room before he partook in drug use. Of course, this type of solution is impractical (not to mention incredibly Orwellian), so the only thing that they can now do is crack down on the rest of the student body for a single incident that did not have anything to do with our “problem culture.”
I do not think it is necessary for me to cover the changes in the CMC social scene that have occurred over the past couple years because it is so evident every time a student goes out on a Thursday or Saturday night. However, it honestly seems like the administration does not know how their recent actions have changed the social scene, so I will spell it out for them. Students are now completely put off by registered parties because they know that they will have to pass through a checkpoint to enter into a fenced space with low-volume music (we don’t want to cause a noise complaint, especially since we are surrounded by four other colleges) while they are being eyeballed by Campus Security and any number of Deans, staff, or RA’s. These sorts of over-controlling and intrusive actions have the direct cause of making students rebellious as they resent to be labelled as vagrants and trouble-makers for wanting to go out and socialize with friends. Students have, therefore, become increasingly likely to binge drink (or use other drugs) before the registered party because they know they will not be able to have any sort of fun in an environment that is excessively puritanized by the administration.
Since the administration seems laughably inept at fostering the sort of fun, inclusive, and positive social atmosphere that used to define CMC, let me throw out a few recommendations that will stop this cycle of self-destruction.
First off, stop fencing and posting an ever increasing amount of Camp Sec officers at every single social event. This will allow a more organic social atmosphere to take over at registered parties. Suddenly, they will become more “cool” as students feel less violated (for lack of a better word) for wanting to hang out with friends. This will, consequently, lessen the need for students to binge on drinks or drugs before a party, leading to exactly the lowering in “legal liability” that the CMC administration wants to see.
Secondly, stop sending condescending communications to the students. Instead of talking down to the student body, let them know that you will help them if they make a mistake or lose their way during college. Students do not start a night of partying with friends hoping to go to hospital. Typically, they make the mistake of getting caught up in the moment and drinking too much without realizing it. The administration should, therefore, help students get better and then offer additional support if they need/ask for it. They should not, under any circumstance, talk down to these students or punish the student body for the mistake of one human being (who is as imperfect as any one of us).
Thirdly, do not use the phrase “social responsibility” when talking to students about your utopian vision of CMC. I strongly believe that social responsibility means taking responsibility of one’s actions as a human being in the social sphere. That means admitting, “Yes, I did drink too much last night” when one is transported to hospital, and asking for help and support from family, friends, and the administration afterwards. It does not, under any circumstance, mean that students should be held to an impossible standard of puritanism by the administration.
I sincerely hope that this article will resonate with students at CMC and show the administration that there is another way to challenge the misguided norms regarding “social responsibility” set by other colleges around the nation. The recommendations I set above might seem to go against everything the deans now stand for, but I believe it is a better solution than a seemingly inevitable downward spiral into the abyss of excessive administration intrusion into students’ lives and students responding with alcohol/drug overuse. Maybe, just maybe, our example could make other colleges rethink their own policies and lead to a fundamental shift in attitudes towards how students should be treated.