Beautiful, Dirty, Rich?
Senior calls for attitude change
By David Nahmias, CMC ’10
I love CMC. As I reflect on my four years, I remember the thought-provoking conversations in my classes, the close relationships with professors and students, an assortment of grueling yet entertaining nights with my thesis-deranged peers in Poppa computer lab, and most of all, the thrill of walking around campus at all hours (Tuesday morning or Saturday night) and knowing almost everyone I run into. I felt gratified and pleased to see that The Daily Beast agrees that Claremont McKenna is the happiest college in America. So it pains me to see some of my classmates manifest their pride in CMC by taking for granted some of the unparalleled gifts our school provides us.
One Saturday night heading up to Harvey Mudd for dinner, I stumbled upon the remnants of the previous night’s fun in Boswell Lounge. While the panorama of chain-link fencing collapsed on the grass and the red cups strewn about provoked one of my friends to hyperbole – joking about Fallujah being here in North Quad – the glaring fact remained that no one had felt the urge to clean it. Red cups litter our campus like weeds some Sunday mornings, and many of us expect the maintenance service to clear up our mess. Some students even have the audacity to suggest that they have no reason to clean up after themselves at all – isn’t that why we pay our grounds staff in the first place? Yet there remains a difference between employing diligent housekeepers to vacuum our common rooms, mop our bathrooms, and even dust our rooms every other week, and demanding that they “pick up our toys” (Natty Ice cans and ping pong balls) like our mothers and fathers.
Why do we feel so entitled to everything CMC gives us? I attribute part of it to the simple fact that we are ensconced in the safe, closed environment of an elite liberal arts college. Ours isn’t an isolated case among our peers (I guarantee that our neighbors on the other side of Sixth Street have the same problem). But beyond that, the school lacks effective punishment for those few students who make a mess for the rest of us. What repercussions do we perceive for our actions? If we can get away with acting stupidly, then why not? As long as we feel no recourse, we have no motivation to change our habits.
This year, students caused an uproar upon discovering that the Ath had cancelled Madrigals. Calling off one of the few events that our young school could call a tradition seemed like a slap in the face for no apparent reason. While the reasons behind canceling Madrigals this year are varied and encompass far more than a single incident, we must acknowledge that student behavior was consistently unacceptable. Madrigals was a privilege, not an entitlement, and we should respect the tradition as such. We are not entitled to show up at the Athenaeum already tanked and then puke on the tablecloths or all over the bathroom. These actions came from only a few, but the consequences affected the whole community.
Maybe the Ath should make an explicit ban on granting entrance to visibly intoxicated persons. But should the Ath become the Madrigals police, or can we trust students to police one another? I hope the latter is possible, but, otherwise, strict guidelines must be enacted to punish those few students who take advantage of an easy situation to get drunk and make awful decisions. If it must fall to the administration, then let it. Let’s keep a tradition alive, but let’s remember why it’s a tradition in the first place – the Madrigal dinner was never meant as another excuse to pre-game.
Make no mistake: I am not advocating for a crackdown on the alcohol policy. The administration wants to treat us like adults, which is more than I can say about many colleges around the country. So let’s accept the responsibility implicit in this treatment. One friend has remarked to me that the only offenses that receive ample punishment at this school are plagiarism and academic dishonesty, because Elizabeth Morgan is in charge. Yet she is one of students’ favorite administrators on campus; according to the t-shirts, she’s our “homegirl.” What distinguishes her is her efficiency, undivided primary attention to students, and her firm but fair demeanor. Students respect her, and, presumably, they respect what she stands for. So why can’t we respect other aspects of the school?
ASCMC should not have to run up a $30,000 tab because we can’t hold it together near windows. We need to appreciate our incredible privileges (not “rights”) and, as a community, remind those students who ignore this distinction. The Dean of Students Office could also add a few more sticks to its arsenal of carrots. As our year closes, and some of us say goodbye to our home here at “Club Med College,” let’s reflect on what we can do to ensure that this unique environment can thrive and that its residents, present and future, can all enjoy it.