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.

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17 Responses to “We Did Not Sign Up For This”

  1. Zach Drennen '13.5 on September 18th, 2014 11:01 am

    Can I get an Amen?

    Nice job Dolan.

  2. Senior on September 18th, 2014 11:28 am

    Yesterday, 8 friends and I went to the organic garden to have a picnic with pizza. PubSafe followed us all the way from campus, without seeing any alcohol made us show him our IDs, and threatened to end the picnic if we so much as cracked a beer with our pizza (we are all 21). We were made to feel like criminals for sitting outside, eating, and enjoying the Vermont nature with food. As a senior, I’m tired of being treated like a criminal by the administration for the most innocuous things. Enough of this, this is not the school I applied to. If I had known this is what Middlebury would be like I would never have applied here.

  3. a on September 18th, 2014 11:43 am

    Preach on

  4. Ben Kinney on September 18th, 2014 4:59 pm

    I seriously cannot understand how Middlebury Administrators consistently fail to realize that by eliminating the few environments where we students can enjoy alcohol with friends safely and openly, they drive freshmen to quickly binge drink hard alcohol alone in their dorm rooms with the blinds down. Drinking on college campuses is a constant; Middlebury Administrators should be working to facilitate safe alcohol consumption, not prohibit it entirely.

  5. MiddFBalum on September 19th, 2014 5:04 pm

    Because, appearances are more important than reality. Would I rather have e-mails and complaints from parents from opposing schools, or would I rather have kids have a safe environment for normal social behavior? I think the answer is pretty obvious here if you’re an administrator, you go with the former. Because as Erin Quinn pointed out, we want to show that we have integrity, and what better way to do that than punishing the many for the actions of the few and dismantling a long-standing tradition? You know, integrity guys come on.

    Also the line about “you don’t need to drink a beer to enjoy watching a DIII football game”. You’re right Erin, you need to drink multiple beers to enjoy watching a DIII football game, and this is coming from a Football alum.

  6. Alex Slater on September 18th, 2014 5:38 pm

    Juan Dolan coming through in the clutch again. Absolutely love it.

  7. David on September 18th, 2014 8:16 pm

    Tailgates are one of the only places where everyone at the school is invited to come together and have a good time. With this new rule people are going to be having exclusive get togethers before football games, probably drink more than they would at a tailgate, and potentially drink and drive to the game. Does it ever seem like this school try’s to be TOO politically correct and RIGHT on paper. I am sick of this school and will tell anyone considering it to apply elsewhere. Period.

  8. junior athlete on September 18th, 2014 8:27 pm

    the only way anything will change is if donations stop. i hate this school because of the hypocrisy and attitude of the admins towards the students, and i know PLENTY of kids who feel the same way. i will continue to tell prospective students about how the admin crushes all fun and social life. hopefully that influences their college decision, and when the school makes less money, maybe something will change.

  9. Midd alumnus on September 19th, 2014 1:22 pm

    I know several class agents who have written to the director of annual giving that they will cease soliciting any donations from their alumni class until the tailgate restrictions have been addressed. Who knows what will come of it but bottom line is we’re upset and doing what we can to at least foster some discussion between the administration and students.

  10. Evans Love on September 18th, 2014 9:42 pm

    … is there somewhere alumni can go to help?

  11. MiddClassOf2010 on September 19th, 2014 8:34 pm

    Welp, no more donations from this alum

  12. Junior on September 21st, 2014 12:09 am

    Am I the only one that finds this op-ed and most of the other responses to this policy laughable? “Fight for your right to party!” Really? How can you write that dramatic overzealous bullshit with a straight face? How about fight for the right of your classmate to not be harassed due to her sexuality? How about fight for the right for your fellow students to not be sexually assaulted? How about fight for the right for your fellow students of color to feel less marginalized at Middlebury?? Honestly, at this point you could fight for the right to have more taco days in Proctor and that would still be a more justified, less entitled and helpful way to spend your time.

    It’s so interesting to see which issues get the most attention on this campus……

  13. lol-worth on September 22nd, 2014 12:43 pm

    Just those things?? What about environmental waste on campus, investment in securities that go against midd’s core beliefs, reading assignments that are insensitive to students with dyslexia, the killing of squirrels by students driving??

    Seriously though, there are initiative for at least most of these things. At least I’m pretty sure there is “it happens here” for sexual assualt/harassment awareness. Why is people being angry about their social rights being stripped not worth of conversation?

    A word of advice would be to get off your Soc-101 high horse and stop pretending like talking about one issue somehow stops the possibility of talking about another. You will never do anything but annoy the majority of the population with that type of view.

  14. Ricky Vaughn on September 23rd, 2014 4:40 pm

    It may come as a surprise to you, but while your fingers are bleeding and your eyes bloodshot from long nights tapping away at the keyboard for social justice, some other vulgar, mundane people are concerned with flesh and blood things like having friends, socializing with those friends, and having shared experiences with other people at community events like football games.

  15. Matthew Biette on September 23rd, 2014 4:52 pm

    I do fight for my right to have more taco days in Proctor

  16. Sam Libby on September 23rd, 2014 4:48 pm

    While I regret the lack of community discussion that went into the decision, I find the intense controversy over a single type of social event to be a bit hyperbolic. In four years at Middlebury, I attended a football tailgate only once (my super-senior year for Homecoming). Many others attended frequently, but I would imagine that in reality it’s a percentage of the student body, not any kind of majority. The only unfortunate outcome that I saw from that event was the litter and damage to the parking area from feet and tires.

    Until there is a national change in the drinking age, my belief is that the tacit acceptance of undergraduate drinking at a specific event will never be in the College’s interest, whether for legal or media reasons. Discussion of the policy towards alcohol at tailgates would be very different if it were happening after a tragic event involving a student or a visitor, which could very easily have happened at this time — no different from many other events where alcohol is consumed. As others have written, that’s what it should have started, a campus discussion, not an outright decision. That being said, erring on the side of safety until a shared solution can be found is one defensible policy to take.

    My recommendation would be to create a really nice beer garden option during tailgates, with the option to pay for entrance (funding security) for those who would like to attend and drink. Others who want to grill or set up their tailgate areas can continue as-is. Another option would be to take the money spent on security throughout the season and focus it towards several specific weekends where a larger event could be staged with similar amenities.

  17. Ricky Vaughn on September 23rd, 2014 5:15 pm

    “In four years at Middlebury, I attended a football tailgate only once (my super-senior year for Homecoming). Many others attended frequently, but I would imagine that in reality it’s a percentage of the student body, not any kind of majority.”

    LOL, so according to this logic, the college should shut down all of the inane clubs and events they subsidize that only three people end up attending.

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We Did Not Sign Up For This