Discourse / Editorials / February 18, 2010

Disconnect between Knox community and administration

The “Knox community” is something that our school likes to put in pamphlets. We tell prospies about it — how when they come here, they will be treated as adults. The Honor Code emphasizes the trust bestowed upon the students here and the importance of personal responsibility. So then why are we being treated like children?

Recently, the apparently indefinite social probation for fraternity houses and the explanation-less shutting down of Jazz House this past weekend has put a damper on our beloved Knox community, not to mention the integrity of our boasts of “personal freedom.” It’s winter term, a time that drives people to drink heavily, become hermits, and write editorials. So then why are you taking away our weekends? Sure, maybe there were less documented cases of “public” drunkenness, but I’d venture a guess that far more hard drugs were consumed this past weekend. Not safe.

When you shut down campus, people are also going to drive more. In 2006, Orientation Week was marked by our campus exploding in an orgy of meeting people and forming friendships. In 2007, Orientation Week was shut down as a social institution of our community. Every audible source of music was silenced in order to keep our campus safer; however, this shortsightedness led to a rash of drunk driving — some cases documented, most not. Did this trade-off make the Knox community safer? Was the Office of Student Development helping students in their development? Did 350 first-years receive purple and gold packets telling them about their “freedom to flourish” only to be told to quietly remain in their suites?

In recent years, the Orientation Week practice of “Karaoke Night” has been an annual meet-and-greet reconnection with people last seen in the throes of spring term finals. However, this practice was ended in an effort to cut down on public drinking and “give the first-years some time.” Actions like these are made with the best intentions, but I can’t ignore the fact that they’ve consistently had a negative effect on the Knox community. While leading tours this winter break, I espoused a prefab spiel about the Honor Code and being treated as an adult — something said with fraudulent integrity.

This misguided shift toward being safer is systemic. Was it a coincidence that, as a Teleambassador, it was impossible to ignore that the vast majority of “top prospects” listed Business as their number one priority, despite the fact that we don’t even have a Business major? Knox used to be proud of letting its unique freak flag fly, but every year we’ve grown closer to becoming a 1,400 state school. We’re becoming generic, losing our personality — the defining features that made the Knox experience a distinct one.

Maybe this is in an effort to pursue “financial impregnability,” to produce a more financially viable breed of student, ones who will, say, donate to have the Knox Bowl bastardized so we can have a generic field just like everyone else. The old Bowl, host to annual sledding and a late April celebration, was a unique fixture of the Knox experience. Now it’s a multi-million dollar symbol of our growing conventionality.

To the administration, I would like to say that I can understand pursuing a safer school from a disconnected institutional stance, but I think you are doing a poor job of making people feel safe where it counts. A student on trial for having sex with multiple children against their will was placed in Tree House, whose mission statement you were well aware of. Was this a damn joke? This was not the fault of our housing director Craig Southern, but the result of an honest lack of information — nobody knew. However, the situation came to the attention of at least one member of the administration mid-year, who irresponsibly withheld this information. Doing nothing until the student was found guilty was negligent, potentially on a criminal level. It was only after weeks of side-stepped e-mails that anyone even sat down and talked to the members of Tree House, some of whom felt what might be called unsafe. Not to mention the “statement” Dean Romano sent to the student body about the recent sexual assaults, well after it was already common knowledge. These actions are not only disrespectful, but downright irresponsible.

If you want to change this school into something different, then fine, I can’t stop you. But don’t lie to students about what this school is about, don’t glad hand high school seniors with “freedom to flourish” posters, and stop treating us all like children. You think it’s to help us, but you’re really just mucking up the best thing this place had going for it — the whole damn community.

Zack Lazar

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