Reclaim Your Weekend

By Guest Contributor

Girl is a few drinks in. Feeling a good buzz, but maybe had a couple too many. It’s one a.m. and this Ridgeline basement is crowded, the floor is sticky and the playlist is beginning to lose its sophistication. Unknown Boy approaches and without even a pleasantry, proceeds to latch himself onto her waist from behind. Over the next couple of minutes she gets a look at his face and she/he/they make(s) a decision about what is to come.

Of course, this is not the sole gender configuration in which this or similar “courting” rituals take place, but we have all seen it happen — if not taken part in it. I always held a holier-than-thou attitude towards such activities — I would see it happen, scoff a little and then wouldn’t give it a second thought. And now, though I still think it is reasonably bestial, I do realize that most everybody else thinks so too. I have come to realize that the majority of our students don’t want to participate in and party in such an environment. They do not wish to meet people in this manner. They do not wish to engage in a hook-up culture that is erratic, often leads to regret and is sometimes dangerous.

The subjects for my informal study have been my Brainerd first-years. First-years often get the reputation of being the driving force behind the sweatiness, crowdedness and drunkenness of social gatherings. As a senior, I bought into this belief and religiously stayed clear of the Bunker and other such first-year hotspots. But after many a conversation, I have come to believe that the majority of first-years do not desire these sweaty and drunken weekends. Are we failing as a school to provide our younger students with the social events they really wish — and deserve — to have?

Maybe this is a naïve judgment. Maybe I am a blind optimist. And maybe my Stew kids are a particularly wonderful bunch (which they most definitely are). But what I hear again and again is that they are (a) not fans of the larger, sweatier, darker party scene, (b) they are frustrated with the social scene here and particularly the lack of options and (c) they would love avenues to meet people in ways that are not shallow or often not even conducive to a conversation. So yes, I do think we are failing in meeting their needs.

This does not mean that they don’t want to dance themselves silly and, God forbid, even have a couple of drinks. But they wish to do so in a space where they can converse, chat up their Proctor crushes, show off how smart they are, be in control of their surroundings and be safe. That, I think, is perfectly reasonable. And we should all step up to the challenge and make this wish a reality.

I think that solution is three-fold: (a) I believe that the silent majority needs to reclaim the party scene, (b) challenge the current hook-up culture and (c) reignite the dating scene on campus.

(a) Let’s get together and throw parties on a scale that we want them to be on and create the environment that we want. Let’s wake up and realize what is unhealthy about the dominant current party culture. Recognize that you aren’t the only person who thinks that, and then say and do something about it. Recognize that the majority can shift this culture. We must be mindful of what expectations we create for entering students and what expectations they create for themselves around the party and hook-up culture at Midd. What is most visible and shapes the norm is what is loudest. But it is rarely what is most popular.

(b) We are a campus of brilliant individuals — we were leaders in our high schools and communities. This, right here, is the Mecca of the eligible. So when we meet new people,  why should we dumb ourselves down and act like nincompoops? I have heard the argument that alcohol can serve as a social lubricant. To that I say, sure — it lowers our inhibitions. But drinking should not ever give us the license to de-civilize how we interact with those that we are interested in.

(c) Thus, date. There isn’t a reason not to. Build up the courage and do it right.

In the meantime, we have to be more realistic about our wrongs and begin to pick up the pieces. We need to stop pretending on a Monday that the previous two or three days didn’t happen. We have too many hospital transports and situations requiring sober friends. We need to drink more responsibly. We have too many cases of sexual assault and harassment. We need to look out for each other more. We are a largely white and privileged private liberal arts college. We need to stop pretending like that means that the ugly doesn’t exist here.

So, maybe, if you think you overdid it last time, drink two fewer drinks next time and see how your night goes, ask that boy or girl out on a date to Sabai Sabai, get a group of friends together and throw a good party, get yourself STI tested at Parton. Take a step and lets reclaim our weekends.

NIAL RELE ’12 is a Brainerd CRA from  Mumbai, India