Students Voice Dissatisfaction with Policy at SGA Open Forum

Alyssa Rosenthal ’13

News Editor

January 31, 2012

Hundreds of dissatisfied students packed Vernon Social Center last Wednesday night to voice their thoughts and questions at the SGA Open Forum on the new Social Host Policy. Dean of Students Frederick Alford fielded questions for over two hours, addressing the new policy in relation to a variety of issues, including the school’s reputation, student safety, Greek life and racism. “It was hard not to be impressed by the turnout,” Alford said, “this is clearly an issue of deep importance to a large portion of the student body and it is important that we pull out the ideas that can help us make the changes we need to make without losing the elements of our social life that do work.

Student Government Association (SGA) President Panida Pollawit ‘12 opened the discussion with a question that was asked repeatedly throughout the night: why was there no student involvement in the creation of the new policy and why were students not notified ahead of time that a new policy was going to be implemented so rapidly? Alford admitted repeatedly that it was “not an ideal process,” but the “concern about policy of social life on campus became very acute” and the administration was pressed to make a change. He cited recent increases in incidents resulting in serious injuries, as well as a substantial jump in the number of transports by the Trinity College Emergency Response Team (TCERT) from 13 per semester in 2009 to 40 in the fall of 2011. Alford stressed that the policy aims to change egregious behavior in a small subset of the student population and encourage students to drink as adults and behave like party guests, not party crashers.

In regards to the immediate and dramatic implementation of the policy, Alford said that recent very dangerous situa – tions, combined with concern for Trinity’s evolving reputation as a party school lent a sense of urgency to the situa – tion. He used the College’s position on lists like the ‘World News Team’s Top 40 Best Bro Colleges” in the country as examples of the way Trinity’s image is changing for the worse. Students countered these statistics by pointing out how Trinity’s reputation could become one of a school with an administration that does not respect its students after this process, which would turn perspective students away much more quickly than the College’s status as “douchey.” One student said that the most attractive thing about Trinity is that it is a smart party school, and The Princeton Review says that Trinity is “all about getting a top-notch education in small classes with professors who know you and being able to also have a good time outside of class.” The rapid implementation of the new social policy could likely negatively impact this positive image as well.

Many students voiced concerns that the College is more worried about its status as a party school than about its reputation for being unsafe and disregarding student safety. One undergrad wondered where Trinity’s priority lies, in protecting students or busting them for drinking, to which Alford answered that safety is the top priority. However, many felt that the policy will drive students off campus more frequently, where they would potentially be exposed to more dangerous situations than they would face within the campus.

Members of Greek organizations said they see the policy as the first phase of getting rid of fraternities at Trinity and pointed out that the policy forces fraternities to be more exclusive. Alford said a charter committee was recently formed by the Board of Trustees to examine Trinity’s social structure, including Greek life, but that the policy was not directly aimed at students in fraternities and sororities.

Psi Upsilon brother John Leddy ’13 was met with applause when he asked Dean Alford why brothers are now being forced to pick and choose which of their friends can come to their parties, as events with alcohol now have a limit of 150 people. He also questioned whether increased exclusivity would raise the likelihood of dangerous situations occurring with fewer places on campus for students to go. Alford responded that the new policy is “absolutely less inclusive” because the administration wants students to make friends with everybody, and he was booed when he told students he would ”be happy to teach you how to make friends with people different from yourselves.”

Rose Lichtenfels ’14, among others who spoke, articulated that there are ”bigger things going on here than drinking,” and that the new social policy does not speak to broader and equally important issues on campus, like racisJn and homophobia. Another student said that the policy should be called an alcohol policy rather than a social one, for if it were truly a social policy it would be attacking the discrimination and adversity minority students face at Trinity. Alford acknowledged that homophobia and racism are making a group of students feel unsafe, but that committees and programs are working to improve the situation. One student wondered why the school was more concerned about its place on lists of bro schools than about its number four spot on The Princeton Review’s list of colleges m the country with “Little Race/Class Interaction.” Trinity is also number three on the list titled “Town-Gown Relations Are Strained.”

Bryan Farb ’14 proposed the creation of a student committee to review and potentially revise the policy, an idea that was met with overwhelming support from all students present. Alford said he would welcome the opportunity to work with students, and in an email to the student body last Friday said he will ask the SGA to appoint students to a task force to engage in a “constructive review” of the policy.

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