We Did Not Sign Up For This

By Jack Dolan

In response to the changes in the tailgate policy effective this Tuesday, there have already emerged a number of great arguments against this new policy, and some weaker ones for it. I am impressed by the initiative and zeal displayed by my schoolmates, and am equally disappointed by the actions and reactions of the administration. I hope this article in opposition to the policy complements those that have come before mine and helps to further explain why we are outraged.

The combination of the policy changes and, in particular, the defense given by Erin Quinn, Director of Athletics, is disheartening. Whether or not you have ever attended a tailgate or an athletic event of any kind, you should be concerned. Here’s why:

Firstly, the opaqueness of Mr. Quinn’s explanatory letter borders on insulting. Entitlement is a touchy subject on this campus, however it is not unreasonable for students, when addressing the sudden, forced removal of a long-standing and beloved tradition, to demand a serious explanation. Certainly, the College is within its right to abide by the NESCAC alcohol policy (even if we are the only school to do so, as MiddBeat points out), but such a drastic and abrupt change naturally begs the question: why now?

The gist of Mr. Quinn’s answer — “People were behaving badly and it made us look bad; no details, just trust me” — is unacceptable. Such a response would indicate a lack of respect for the affected party even if it were given as initial reasoning, but after being politely pressed for further explanation, the answer becomes a diplomatic way of telling the indignant and bewildered to screw off.

Mr. Quinn cites the Trinity game tailgate on Homecoming weekend as an exceptionally egregious incident. However, the general opinion of students on the Homecoming tailgate and game, who were both on and off the field that day, was overwhelmingly positive. One member of the football team told me it was the best crowd he had ever played in front of. This is not to say that nothing bad happened; I do not know the whole story. However, it does bespeak some serious cognitive dissonance between administrators and students. It also illustrates why seemingly the entire student body did not see this coming.

Furthermore, it is a pernicious precedent to set if the administration simply takes away such a large fixture of student life without due warning or discussion. How confident should we feel in an administration that would rather pass the buck than address an important issue head-on with its students? How comfortable should we feel when that same administration can take away basic elements of student life on what appears to be a whim and do so without much explanation?

But, perhaps what is most worrisome of all is the administration’s deep-seated mistrust of the student body evinced by this one-two punch of encroaching legislation and dismissive explanation. While walking us through the thought process leading up to his decision, Mr. Quinn writes that following the end of last football season, he “felt compelled to ask [himself] what we should do to address this situation”. However, it appears that this compulsion was not all that strong as, to the best of my recollection, there was no effort to ask us how to proceed in the nine months since. Instead of petitioning us for support as the thoughtful adults we seem to be treated as during the school week, the situation was addressed through blindsiding discipline as though we were children or criminals, incapable of being reasoned with and untrustworthy to form a constructive solution.

It is offensive and hypocritical to the utmost degree that administrators would not even consider reaching out to the greater student body for support to address this issue. We have been denied an opportunity to practice the very same values Middlebury proudly trumpets to the world for having so well instilled in us, as well as the ability to govern ourselves as adult members of free society for which the liberal arts education is designed to prepare us. The latter is what brought us to the liberal arts instead of large research universities and the former, this unique set of values, is what brought us specifically to Middlebury. Regardless of how much or little time studying or partying we intended to spend during our stint at the College, the denial of these values is why many of us feel as though we are now at a school for which we did not sign up three years ago.

With all the rebranding efforts taking place over the past few months, it is no secret that Middlebury has become incredibly conscious of its image, possibly more than ever before. Nor is it a secret that fleecing your students of the (read: any) social life they expected at the beginning of their four years is a great way to ruin that image. Squeezing us to the point where we feel that we have to choose between getting a Middlebury education and having a social life somewhere else, works too. What is a secret, however, is why so many of us upperclassmen feel as though, when we reflect on our earliest memories at the College, it sounds like we are describing a completely different school than the one we attend now.

Middlebury students: do not wait until the administrators have gathered their wits enough to invite us to participate in another time-wasting public forum and kill the issue on the stage of Wilson Hall through apathy and political correctness. Seniors, this is our last chance. Voice your opinion now. Share your articles now. Sign your petitions now. Let Middlebury and its former, current and prospective students know we will not let our final year at this school, which we all at one time loved, to be sterilized in the name of a national brand on President Liebowitz’s resume. Fight for your right to party.

Go Panthers.