May 11, 2007 will be remembered as the day fun officially died on this campus. While President Zimmer, Ted O’Neill, and Bill Michel have spent a large amount of energy trying to subdue that stereotype, their efforts were significantly set back last Friday by the very people who are supposed to push it forward. The main facilitators of fun on this campus, the Office of the Reynolds Club and Student Activities (ORCSA), decided to regulate Scav Hunt’s annual party on the quads by checking IDs and making sure no teams provided alcohol of their own. In doing so, ORCSA essentially gutted the central cog of one of the main events this school uses to convince potential applicants that we actually do have fun on this campus. It’s not an unusual move for ORCSA, whose leadership seems to be more interested in being students’ mommies than in providing them with the means to have fun for themselves.
First off, I want to say that everyone did an awesome job at this year’s Hunt, which was one of the best in recent memory. That being said, there was really nothing anyone could do to prevent the Social Sciences Quad from feeling dead on Friday. It was a cruel irony that this year’s party theme was famous bars from movies when no team was allowed to provide alcohol. And while the larger teams still had the resources to put on entertaining parties, the smaller teams’ parties were essentially dead. The party has always been one of the main events that attracts non-Scavvies to Scav, but this year, there was nothing to entice people to come short of bar jokes and Simpsons quotes.
It’s understandable that people would want the party toned down after last year’s debacle in Cobb, but moving the party back to the quads would have solved most of last year’s problems. Furthermore, the level of regulation of this party was better fit for a junior prom than a highly-anticipated campus event. No team was even allowed to bring non-alcoholic drinks (would they have to call our parents if something was spiked?) and teams weren’t even allowed to have baked goods. Funny, I thought it was after ingesting marijuana that you were supposed to get paranoid.
There are many possible explanations for why ORCSA was so strict with this party—if you want a more sinister one, the ORCSA-run pub made thousands of dollars off the party. ORCSA regulates the Scav list each year, specifies restrictions on the road trip, and sets up other baffling requirements such as detailed accounting for last year’s street fair. Their restrictions on Vita were as absurdly specific as allowing nudity but not pictures of erections. At this year’s most recent Student Government election announcement, Sharlene Holly, the director of ORCSA, stormed in and halted activities after hearing that one candidate (gasp!) may have been drinking beer at the party.
In regard to Vita, one ORCSA official stated that its primary concern was “the protection of students,” and that ORCSA’s secondary concern was “how the University will appear.” Actually, it’s the dean of students’s primary job to protect students; ORCSA’s main responsibility is to sign the checks. Ironically enough, it’s Dean Susan Art who’s the approachable campus personality and Sharlene Holly who better resembles Dean Wormer from Animal House.
As for that secondary concern, I can’t imagine why anyone would think that regulating Friday’s party would make this school appealing. Why come to a school whose entertainment scene is highlighted by a party where you can’t even drink? This is especially striking when compared with Liquor Treat at Yale and WILD at Wash U, which are endorsed by their ORCSA equivalents. While those schools may not condone giving alcohol to minors, they don’t check to see if someone’s hiding a flask, and they almost certainly allow students to bring baked goods. It’s foolish to think that college students would want a party without alcohol, yet instead of simply making sure everyone was safe, ORCSA went to ridiculous extremes in trying to prevent students from enjoying themselves responsibly.
If you think ORCSA is damaging this school only by regulating a couple of parties, think again. As an O-Leader, my least favorite job was always moving things in the Reynolds Club—not because of the job itself, but because of the smug, condescending attitude with which the ORCSA staff treated students. They did not appreciate the committment of students, who stayed until 2 a.m. to clean up after a party. Because of a lack of direction, most students wound up sitting around doing nothing but were still not allowed to leave. Moreover, during my two years as an O-Leader, most of my contemporaries were even less forgiving. The College Programming Office struggled to fill its O-Week staff last year, and this year O-Week staff was reduced by over 60 students. While it’s frustrating to see such a critical period in students’ college experience being tarnished due to poor staffing, it makes sense given ORCSA’s behavior: How can O-Aides effectively help first-years adjust when they feel like they’re being treated like cattle?
If the University’s administrators are ever going to make sure that “Where Fun Comes to Die” is a purely ironic slogan, they may have to start by looking at the people who are supposed to be making fun things happen. We may casually accept a high school principal rigidly enforcing arbitrary rules, but there’s no reason we should do the same at a university that prides itself on having a collection of the brightest young minds in the world. It’s hard to feel like you’re being treated like an adult when you have someone holding your hand every step of the way.