The Colgate Scene
March 2001
Table of contents
The Colgate Scene invites responsible letters, addressed to the editor, regarding any subject that may be considered of interest to the Colgate community. We reserve the right to edit for length and clarity.

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When I First Met Bill Rogers
. . . In 1968 there was unrest on many campuses around the country; Colgate was no exception. During that time the black students at Colgate felt that their needs were not being met and they felt that they did not have a voice in what was happening to them. While talking to Vince Barnett about the situation, he asked if I would come up to the campus from New York and meet with the black leadership. I agreed to come even though I had no official standing at Colgate other than being a graduate. When I arrived on the campus and met with the black leader, I asked if he could get a small group together so we could meet and I could listen to them. He said he would do that and we should meet at 10:00 p.m. at his house in the village. When I arrived at where he was living, he had about 15 of his friends there. We talked for about 30 minutes and then he asked if I had any position with the school. I told him I didn't, but that I would report to the trustees about what was being said. He wanted to have the head of the Board of Trustees meet with them. I said that I would try to arrange it. "Why not now?" he asked. "Okay, I'll try." I drove to the Colgate Inn, where the trustees were still meeting. I went in and told Bill Rogers what had happened and what they wanted. Bill said "Let's go." (It was now about 11:00 p.m.)

     We drove back to the house and for over an hour they talked and a good give and take took place. It was clear that the students felt they had accomplished something to further their cause, and they had. Driving back to the inn, Bill thanked me. He felt they were an impressive group and said that the board would be more responsive to them. I was very impressed with Bill Rogers and knew that I was with a leader. He proved it with his career that followed.

Irvington, NY

Disagreeing strongly
. . . "Ask the alumni," challenges W. John Little '54 in his January Scene letter defending the Greek system as "an important part" of college life.

     As an alumna, I disagree strongly with Mr. Little's contention. The Greek system (which at the time included only fraternities) was an important part of my Colgate experience only in a negative sense. Not only were the fraternities abusive to women, they were abusive to their own members.

     Many of my male friends, after working hard to be accepted by a fraternity, "de-pledged" a year or two later, when it dawned on them that they were expected to sacrifice their individual judgment to the infantile ethos of the group. I support Professor Moran's choice to refuse invitations to fraternity and sorority events, and I'd be willing to bet that her rationale for doing so goes well beyond the "disappointment of students" at rejection.

     "College is a learning experience and so is the Greek System," Mr. Little writes. In my experience, these were two very different, and conflicting, learning experiences. While liberal education seeks to create mature, free-thinking individuals, I witnessed the fraternity system encouraging a herd mentality and rewarding the lowest standards of behavior. An article in the same Scene, concerning the suspension of Alpha Tau Omega, offers clear evidence that at least some fraternities continue in this pattern -- building "brotherhood" by encouraging heavy drinking, group-think and violent behavior.

     Yes, Mr. Little, "there is a real world out there." And in my real

     world, friendship and community don't have to be bought at the cost of personal dignity and freedom. Of course, college is competitive, but college social life doesn't have to involve hazing, stomach-pumping and "meat markets." I will encourage my children to seek a college that challenges their intellectual capacities, as Colgate did for me. But I will also encourage them to seek a college where community is built in creative ways that respect diversity and affirm individuality -- which may well mean, a college without fraternities and sororities.

Saratoga Springs, NY

No typo
. . . I think I spotted a typo in the January Scene when you said that the university will suspend any student "arrested" for drunk driving. Surely the word should have been "convicted," since only in the wacky world of Edwin Meese is mere accusation sufficient to warrant punishment.

     I will grant that driving while intoxicated presents a serious hazard, although despite the propaganda it is not one that magically vanishes at age 21. My chief complaint is that the present restrictions penalize 18, 19 and 20-year olds who aren't even driving, like the three dozen students rousted at Peabody's in November.

     Back when the Reagan Administration first blackmailed the states into raising the drinking age some of us recognized that, apart from its fundamental unfairness, choosing a capricious and arbitrary age of 21 would sharply divide student bodies between those authorized to imbibe and those not. Colgate and other colleges ought to have stood up at that time and warned of the foreseeable problems; but whether out of desire not to appear un-trendy or fear of jeopardizing their Bundy Aid, the administrators either stayed silent or climbed on the neo-prohibitionist bandwagon.

     I certainly sympathize with the young adults forced to use fake IDs to obtain alcohol; in their position I might do the same thing. One would think that other Boomers, who regularly used pot or hash as well as booze in their undergraduate days, would be hard pressed to coherently explain the difference between that behavior and this.

     If the goal is to limit drunk driving, it would make more sense to leave the drinking age at 18 and raise the driving age. After all, the state has a much more legitimate interest in regulating activity on public streets than in regulating what a person does with his or her own body. Moreover, reducing the number of drivers would have beneficial side effects in reducing pollution, wear and tear of roads and consumption of limited fossil fuels.

     Until Congress comes to its senses, though, the university might consider simply banning students from bringing cars to campus without a bona fide medical or economic need, and thereby reducing the opportunity for accidents. With the administration allowing fewer and fewer students to live off campus, most classes are within easy walking distance; for that matter, most of Hamilton is easily accessible to the physically unchallenged.

     It is understandable that, in the wake of an unfortunate occurrence such as the one on Oak Drive, all interested parties would feel the need to take some sort of action. At an institution such as Colgate, ostensibly devoted to knowledge and reason, that action ought to involve pointing out the flaws in present policies and proposing ways to correct them, rather than simply intensifying what doesn't work now; in short, becoming a leader instead of remaining merely a follower.

Oneida, NY

Overflow crowd
. . . I found it interesting that your mention of the "capacity crowd" for Ralph Nader's appearance at Colgate failed to include any comment of the extremely poor planning for the event as far as crowd accommodation is concerned.

     Four of us arrived 45 minutes early (after an hour's drive) to find that the line at the Student Union was already out-of-doors and growing rapidly. After a half-hour wait in the cold with at least 200 people behind us, an announcement was made that only 100 more persons would be allowed entry. My wife and I were 98 and 99, but our two friends were fourth and fifth behind us. We relinquished our places for them and spent the next hour or so comfortably ensconced in Case Library. When we rejoined our friends we learned that they had seen Mr. Nader only through closed circuit TV.

     Mr. Nader's lectures had been drawing huge crowds in the months before the Colgate event. That fact, plus the excellent publicity provided by Colgate, should have alerted the administration to plan for a much larger space to hold the lecture. The outcome of the November election was in itself enough to spark considerable interest in listening to what Mr. Nader might have to say.

Springfield Center, NY

. . . I checked my mail today around 3:30 and found the January Scene there. I am always a little excited to flip to the back and see if there is any news about somebody I haven't seen in a while. Today was different, though. I didn't make it to the back. I was respectfully stopped by a front-page article on something I care about deeply but that I rarely have seen represented as an aspect of Colgate: counseling.

     I attended Colgate between 1987 and 1991. I visited Conant House briefly my senior spring to help me with the inevitable loss of leaving Colgate, a place I love and where I grew immeasurably. I knew Conant House was there because I was a peer counselor and a psych major; I never really heard anybody talk about it. I hadn't thought about Conant House again until last fall when a friend of mine told me there was a full-time staff psychologist position at the Counseling Center. I was in the process of applying for predoctoral internships in clinical psychology and looking into future postdoctoral opportunities and jobs at university counseling centers, among other positions. I smiled at the thought of counseling at Colgate, and then I thought of how much I knew some students needed that help. I got an internship at Northwestern University and have been seeing students and dealing with their tragedies on the front lines since August 2000. And I have been thinking of Colgate.

     Knowing that the rates of serious psychopathology are increasing at all counseling centers, that suicide, severe substance use problems, eating disorders, mood disorders, and even psychosis are now the daily practice of counseling center psychologists, and that there are developmental events like unexpected losses that happen daily; I am relieved to see that Colgate has a place for students to turn to, and that Colgate is granting that place some attention. Colgate provides students with many challenges and difficult decisions. Students are bright and not used to being around others who are as accomplished as they are. The trust, respect, support and empathy discussed in the Scene is crucial to provide comfort and surcease when it all gets to be too much. So as an alumna and a psychologist in training I congratulate the Scene and Colgate for emphasizing the services of Conant House. I will pick up the Scene with newfound respect in the future.

Evanston, IL

A letter to the Trustees
. . . This letter is addressed to the Board of Trustees and the Colgate community in response to the Board of Trustees' letter to the Colgate community. Many people in this community share their concern about the nature of our campus culture and we should strongly support the trustees' call for a serious investigation of this culture. I have taught here for almost 30 years and I have seen many changes, but not enough, in this culture. Colleagues who had been here for 30 years before I came have said the same. There has been a history of tragedy, some of it accidental, some avoidable, and some willful and intentional, but all regrettable. Incidents that have includ-ed fights, destruction of property, rape and death. Some of them are linked to alcohol and some to a sort of hyper-macho youthful culture. Regrettably, we must acknowledge that, however widespread such behavior is in the wider culture, it has also been part of Colgate's own tradition, the dark side of our tradition, if you will. We have to acknowledge this if we are to change it.

     We must also understand that this campus culture is linked with campus structures. Any introductory course in anthropology or sociology points out that culture is linked to structure, linked to those persistent patterns of social relationships and organizations that we recognize as Colgate University and its constituent parts. In order to investigate our campus culture, therefore, we must investigate its structure and understand how the culture is related to the structure. This, if you'll forgive me, is simple sociological and anthropological literacy. A serious investigation of our campus culture must be prepared to investigate some patterns of relationships and organizations that have a great deal of support from influential parts of the wider Colgate community, so we should anticipate that they may object to such an investigation.

     I am asking the Board of Trustees if they are serious about this investigation of our campus culture. If they are, then they and the committee they organize must be prepared to investigate all of our community's constituent parts and the part they may play, for better and for worse, in institutionalizing and perpetuating our culture. To be more specific, I think we need to consider seriously the history and role of the fraternities and the hyper-macho sports at Colgate. Both these parts of Colgate are central to our tradition and our community, so we should not place them beyond the agenda of a serious investigation. I suggest that it is plausible, at least, that any organizations that emphasize a hyper-macho culture may be linked to the perpetuation of some of the negative aspects of our campus culture, including aggression, binge-drinking, gang-type loyalty, homophobia and misogyny. If not, then there's nothing to hide -- but if the study of our campus culture is going to be serious then they, among all the other organizations and patterns of relationships in our community, must be on the committee's agenda.

Professor of Sociology

Editor's note: The Board of Trustees, at its meeting this January, resolved to commence an immediate and in-depth review of campus culture at Colgate with the purpose of recommending improvements that will strengthen our college. The chairs of four board committees -- Student Affairs (Ralph Verni '64), Academic and Faculty Affairs (William Browne '67), Admission and Financial Aid (Robert Jones '72) and Athletic Affairs (Charles Carey '76) -- have been asked to create and charge a task force to deal with questions about campus life. The task force will solicit the participation not only of trustees, but also students, parents of students, faculty and administrators. It is one of the fundamental responsibilities of the Board of Trustees to create an environment encompassing high-quality teaching and meaningful learning, in which everyone is treated with dignity and respect. Aware that the aberrant actions of a few students can have a negative impact on campus life, the board strongly supports the college's administrative staff in making it clear that alcohol abuse and other activities that endanger members of the community or detract from the quality of campus life cannot be tolerated. At the same time, the board as strongly supports efforts that identify opportunities where activities can be added or enhanced to enrich campus life outside class for the benefit and enjoyment of our student body.

Constitutional rights
. . . For years many of us have been very concerned about the administration's quiet campaign to deny Colgate students their constitutional rights with respect to the university. This campaign is reflected in the changing language that the administration has used in Colgate's catalogue. From 1974 to 1992 the catalogue stated: "Students on campus as well as off campus are subject to federal, state and local laws. Students surrender none of their constitutional rights as citizens by becoming members of the Colgate community. [Colgate Catalogue 1991-92, p. 30, emphasis added]

     In 1993 the language was changed to: "Students on campus, as well as off campus, are subject to federal, state and local laws, and enjoy the same constitutional protections against improper governmental action as all other citizens." [Colgate Catalogue 1993-94, p. 33]

     Now the catalogue simply states: "Students on campus, as well as off campus, are subject to federal, state and local laws. [Colgate Catalogue 1997-98, p. 29]

     There is no mention of student constitutional rights with respect to the university.

     The administration's attitude toward students' constitutional rights was best summed up by a former Colgate vice president who stated that "we're private and we can do that [deny students their constitutional rights with respect to the university].

     Even students at SUNY Morrisville have more rights than Colgate students.

     Dean Cappeto now has placed Colgate's position on this issue in public and in print by stating to the faculty that "they (Colgate students) have no constitutional rights with Colgate" [minutes of faculty meeting, Dec. 4, 2000, page 5].

     Does the Board of Trustees, the president of the university and/or the faculty have the intellectual honesty and academic integrity to have Colgate affirmatively state in its catalogue that Colgate students "have no constitutional rights with (respect to) Colgate?"

     I believe that applicants to Colgate and its students have a right to be informed of Colgate's explicit denial of their constitutional rights.

New London, NH

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