Deconstructing the Delta Decision

by / editorial (0) in Opinions /

On March 18, Community Council voted to disband Delta. The decision came after the Residential Life Committee conducted its biennial review of Middlebury’s five social houses. Delta was the only social house that the committee recommended for disbandment.

While disbanding Delta, formerly known as ADP, may seem like an unnecessarily dramatic move on the part of Community Council, the decision did not come out of nowhere. Delta membership failed to comply with the steps urged by the administration in order to avoid disbandment this academic year. In addition, Prescott house has already surpassed its $1,500 annual dorm damage limit implemented by Community Council as of last year.

President of the College Ronald D. Liebowitz therefore has a clear basis to support Community Council’s decision to dissolve Delta. Even after the report released by the Residential Life Committee, the organization had multiple chances to prove its commitment to change — yet its leadership failed to do so.

However, Delta should not be solely to blame for this year’s transgressions. Dorm damage is not confined to Prescott house — it occurs everywhere on campus. Prescott is just one of a number of large party spaces that the College has shut down as a result of damage in recent years — Fletcher and the Bunker are two examples. If the College’s prescribed method of dealing with the issue — shutting down the spaces where the most damage occurs — continues to yield weak results, perhaps it is not the solution to the problem. It may even be the case that dorm damage is inevitable.

Whether this last statement is true or not, as it currently stands, the Community Council’s policy does not overlook the unfortunate reality of the situation; by allowing for a certain dorm damage threshold, the College explicitly acknowledges that dorm damage will happen. Therefore, as students, we must uphold our end of the bargain. Accidents happen, but cutting loose does not necessitate breaking windows. We all must work to ensure that partying does not become synonymous with destruction, and this responsibility does not just fall on members of social houses.

We must recognize that many students here  — and not just those who are members of social houses — want the type of party scene that these spaces provide, and these students should not be vilified for preferring to socialize in this way. However, under the College’s current restrictions, it remains unclear whether the typical “college” parties we grew up seeing on TV and in movies can exist in our community.

The disbanding of Delta will undoubtedly have some effect on Middlebury’s social scene. Many of us took part in the typical first-year activity of trekking down to ADP or Tavern with a huge group of hall-mates in search of a stereotypical, big college party. And attendance at social house parties is not limited to first-years — judging by the overwhelming crowds that can be found in Ridgeline basements on any given weekend, social houses play a role in the social lives of a critical portion of Middlebury’s student body and eliminating large party spaces will reduce weekend options for students.

In addition, with fewer large party spaces, students will likely hold smaller, less inclusive parties where they are unlikely to meet new people and likely to drink more irresponsibly, creating additional risk to students’ safety. Instead of grabbing a beer in a basement of a social house, students may be driven to drink in small groups behind closed doors.

Weekend partying aside, Delta as an organization has historically had strong ties to the space as a residence. Administrators have indicated that with the dissolution of Delta, Prescott house will likely serve as a regular dorm for the 2013-2014 academic year, comprised of singles and doubles, rather than be offered up as a superblock. We can anticipate that this change will affect the feeling of community created when organization membership and residence combine.
There are no obvious solutions to address these larger issues, and we are unsure as to whether removing Delta from the social scene will in the end yield any real positive change. Looking at the past few years, Delta’s extensive dorm damage is likely a symptom of an overarching campus-wide problem.

The question that needs answering is, where do we go from here? How do we fill the void that Delta is bound to leave? It seems that some of this responsibility of ensuring that students can find a communal place to party will fall on the social houses still in existence. From the big picture perspective, however, it is clear that the onus for creating a healthy, functional social scene that still satisfies student preferences falls on all of us. The administration should ensure that its expectations remain realistic, and continue to help students remain aware of and capable of meeting these expectations. However, as students, we must fulfill our side of the bargain by respecting these expectations and making ourselves accountable. Respect for our surroundings and our peers cannot go by the wayside come Thursday night. Accidents are inevitable, but no one has a right to commit them.