I am lucky I came of age many years ago. Were I a college student today, I am sure I would be expelled, or perhaps even imprisoned. College was a time of vast and sometimes foolish experimentation. (Actually, so was high school.) I found myself on probation for a spell, when I confessed, during my freshman year, to my role in a late-night adventure with the construction and tossing of Molotov cocktails from a dormitory roof. And I swear there were weekends when it was enough to walk the halls of a dormitory to get stoned from second-hand marijuana fumes. As for alcohol, well, we drank rivers of whatever we could find. I survived.
These days, you look at someone funny and you earn a trip to the dean’s office. This appears to be especially so at the Ivy League colleges.
Consider the storm gathering at Yale University. It turns out a bunch of Yalies were at an invitation-only party in mid-February in New Haven sponsored by the Pundits, a society of pranksters. The students were to arrive in costume, but, once things got rolling, all were instructed to disrobe. They drank alcohol, sometimes massive amounts of alcohol; so much alcohol that several of the students found their way to the Yale-New Haven Hospital or the university health center. One student slurred something about a sexual assault, so now the university’s administration is making this a cause celebre as part of the school’s crack down on hazing.
One would think it would be honor enough to be admitted to Yale, but the need to belong to an exclusive group is intensely felt even there, perhaps especially there. Students anxiously await an invitation, or tap, to join secret societies or fraternities. The Pundits party was a pre-tap party, a last chance to see and be seen by kings and queens of social status. The university fears some of the attendees felt overwhelmed by social pressure to drink. This peer pressure is hazing, an amorphous concept that seeks to require undergraduates to behave like neophytes in a religious retreat for those afraid of their own shadows.
"I am deeply disturbed by initial reports of heavy drinking by underage students in a context that could be construed as hazing," Yale College Dean Mary Miller said in an e-mail Wednesday night. "Yale College does not tolerate hazing or intimidation: I’m well aware that a feature of hazing is that it can be difficult for someone victimized by it to come forward."
Oh, really now, Dean Miller? I’ll bet more than a few faculty members greet the setting Sun each night with a shaky hand as they reach for a gin bottle. Publish or perish can be as a cruel an imperative as an undergraduates longing for admission to the right club. Hazing? C’mon. Draw some necessary distinctions; or is lost in the cosmos the required mental state for a corner office in an ivory tower?
The dean encouraged all with information about the party to share it with their residential college master or dean, adding that her office will provide special arrangements over spring break to do so, according to the Yale Daily News.
The university runs the risk of destroying any sense of collegiality and trust by turning student against student in a witch hunt to determine who had a little too much to drink. I can well imagine a dean or administrator turned loose on the 19- and 20-year-olds in their midst: will there be secret briefings, subtle deceits, and veiled threats to get kids to come clean in this new environment of politically correct prohibition?
Who will hold the university administrators to the honor code made applicable to students? Adults will grill young people on the cusp of maturity, and these kids will be denied lawyers, and subject to the subtle deceits all law-enforcement engage in to arrive at the truth. All this because a couple of kids got shit-faced? Please tell me the university is not led by the sort of humorless creeps who never once howled blind drunk and buck-ass naked at the moon while in college.
One anonymous student told the Yale Daily news that the atmosphere at the Pundits party was so free-wheeling that it was "dis-inhibiting people, was that they were force-feeding people alcohol and they couldn’t say no because of the power dynamic," one student said. They let someone who speaks, and thinks, like this into Yale?
The university’s police have lined up 16 kids for interrogations. Each kid will be spoken to privately, outside the presence of others. The university will compare and contrast these statements, probing for inconsistencies. It will then determine who is lying, and pounce, placing the young man’s, or the young woman’s, reputation on the line. All this because a bunch of kids got drunk. There will be Star Chamber proceedings, held in secret, and terrified students hoping that youth will not be utterly wasted on youth.
Times have changed. I don’t get it. Neither, from what I hear, did George Bush, when he painted the campus red, or was it cocaine white? Why is the university hazing its students? Why this new and impossible moralism?