October 12, 2011

Southern: ‘Archaic’ social event policy up for revision

Ever since 2000 (with some statutes dating as far back as 1992), Knox has had a social event policy that Associate Dean of Students for Campus Life Craig Southern describes as “archaic.” Over the past few terms, Southern has been corresponding with the Student Life Committee (SLC) and the Inter-fraternity Council (IFC) to propose a plan to fix some of the problems inherent in the policy.

As it stands now, the policy, according to Southern, reflects neither the will of the student body nor the reality of campus life.

“The reason that we have a process is to help students be able to plan a social event,” said Southern. “So what I’m looking at right now is just … how can we make it more realistic … and how can we make it more the college helping the students.”

The decade-old policy, also known as the “party policy,” requires any students planning social events to find sponsors, fill out a good deal of paperwork and, if there is alcohol involved, fill out a separate form and have of-age student monitors attend the event.

Inter-fraternity Council president junior John Cusimano, whose role is to serve as a liaison between Greek Life and the administration, describes the policy as “inefficient” and “inconvenient.”

One of the biggest problems, he said, is that the turnaround for approval is currently too quick to sufficiently advertise for the event. Event planners must submit registration forms no later or earlier than a week in advance, according to the policy, and are approved on the following Wednesday; then and only then can they begin advertising for the event.

“It puts a tremendous amount of constraint on organizations,” Cusimano said, “because … we have to wait for a certain window in which we can submit [an event], but then we have to wait so long for approval.”

Since there is such a small space for advertising, organizations have found ways to work around the policy using Facebook for publicity, an issue that is not addressed at all in the policy.

“They [event planners] make Facebook events … and before the party is approved they set it so that only they can invite people … so Campus Life would never know about it. Then once the party is approved, they change it so everyone can invite everyone,” Cusimano said.

For policy makers, the question still remains on how to regulate these types of advertising.

Another problem with the turnaround is that with events involving alcohol, organizations are required to have student monitors and sponsors of the event (both of whom must be 21 or older) fill out an electronic test consisting of questions pertaining to alcohol, then meet with Assistant Director of Campus Life for Residential Operations Jillian Staley to discuss the test — all in the one or two days before the event takes place.

“Every time you throw an event, the same exact [seven to ten] people have to go and take the same exact test … it’s just not streamlined,” Cusimano said.

On the end of the students who attend these social events, overall opinions on the policy are divided, if not indifferent. Senior Isaac Miller said that he is specifically bothered by too much oversight, such as having to register his Knox ID numbers at the door of parties.

“I haven’t done any research; I don’t know what the point is, but it does make me feel childish,” he said. “At the same time, it’s really easy to circumvent; you can put down a fake name … make up some numbers.” Miller also described the requirement for parties to end at 2 a.m. as a “bummer.”

Other students, like junior Laurel Tippe, think the policy could be more trusting of students generally.

“I think that people are stupid at parties, and there should be someone telling them not to be that stupid, but it doesn’t necessarily need to be the school,” she said. “It needs to be more of a self-regulatory thing.”

Senior Alex Lindgren, however, doesn’t see too much of an issue. He said that he is not sure that the procedures are followed all the time, and the rules are there mostly for liability issues and little else.

“I guess I don’t know much about [the policy], but I feel like … it’s more like a thing you do for show,” he said.

Lindgren said that either way, he feels that there are not enough parties on campus, which may be a result of the policy’s inefficient approval process.

“I’m pro-partying; that’s my stance. I want more parties. I don’t know if that means less oversight or more oversight. I just think there need to be more,” Lindgren said.

With a frustrated but divided student body, Southern has his work cut out for him in revamping the policy. Although he assures it is on both the SLC’s agenda and the campus life agenda and he will be putting something together “soon,” he does not want to give a final date for the policy’s revision.

“I don’t want to be beholden to one thing,” he said.

Sam Brownson
Sam Brownson ’12 majored in philosophy and minored in anthropology and sociology. This is his second year copy editing for TKS; he is also currently a post-baccalaureate fellow in music and theater and will be composing the music for two productions as part of Knox’s Repertory Theatre Term. A self-described grammar Nazi, Sam worked as a TKS reporter and as a writer and editor for his high school newspaper before joining the TKS editorial staff. He also manages social media for Brownson Properties in Holland, Mich.

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