We at Swarthmore love to accuse others of being entitled. If complaining about the privilege of others were a collegiate sport, we’d probably be perennial national contenders. However, the recent outrage expressed over the administration’s decision to deny alcohol to minors at last weekend’s Halloween party, shows the most entitled people on campus are Swatties.
Last weekend, Swarthmore held its annual Halloween party in Sharples. During previous years the school provided alcohol to all students at the party. This year, only students 21 or older were allowed to indulge at the party and a barricade was set up around the drinking area. This has been met with outrage and calls of unfairness. Well I admit the school is being a bit of a buzz kill, the administration is acting very shrewdly by looking out for its best interests.
On Tuesday, STUCO hosted a meeting that featured Dean Rodriguez and Mike Hill, the head of public safety, among others. The purpose of this meeting was to address the changes to party policies this year, the Halloween party, and give students a chance to voice their concerns. Like any other open community meeting at Swarthmore, it quickly devolved to a series of outlandish accusations and complaints.
“I would like to understand why it is that we see a shift to this administration aggressively attempting to enforce state law” one student asked. “It feels like suddenly you are now the police and trying to enforce the law”. I have written in the past about how some students at Swarthmore think that the laws of state somehow don’t apply to them – and this is yet another case. For some reason they think the drinking laws of Pennsylvania shouldn’t apply to Swartmore because “Swarthmore isn’t like other colleges” (as one student helpfully pointed out). Apparently, there is an assumption at Swarthmore that because we are an elite school we are above the law.
The administrators pointed out that the school did not want risk an underage student harming him or herself by drinking alcohol that the school provided. “We’re not going to host a party for you and take that kind of liability,” said Dean Rodriguez. This was met with scoffs from the students. Dean Rodriguez also pointed out that the school is under federal investigation for cultivating a hostile environment and alcohol is a big part of that. If Swarthmore does not take action, it is possible for us to lose federal funding. No funding means no financial aid. Did students really think that prompting a Department of Education investigation wouldn’t also prompt a reevaluation of the College’s alcohol policies? To some students, however, the right to have booze provided to them by school is a right more valuable than the school’s ability to offer students financial aid.
Many different arguments came up during this portion of the meeting. There were even a few persuasive ones on why the drinking age is impractical and dangerous. Last time I checked, however, Swarthmore does not decide the drinking age.
For some reason the administration is under heavy criticism for announcing that this year they would not knowingly break the law. In light of the recent events at Swarthmore that have brought national attention to our little bubble, this is probably a good idea. We are not entitled to pick and choose which laws to follow because we all happened to do well on the SAT. Breaking the law is not a right no matter how dumb the law may be. Many of us (including myself) participate in underage drinking – but Swarthmore shouldn’t be expected to facilitate that.
We are so quick to throw out the term entitled but we don’t look at ourselves first. We can’t justify circumventing the law simple because “Swarthmore isn’t like other colleges”.
Despite whatever outlandish, dooms-day visions Swarthmore students have imagined, the administration made the right decision. Entitlement to alcohol is a theoretical point; liability and state laws are real.