An Open Exchange of Ideas, Good and Bad

"So what I'm hearing you say is, you can't have fun without the ability to drink," Patrick Chang said from the head of the room, a wry smile crossing his face.

"Well, yeah," a male student replied without missing a beat. "Let's be real. This is college. That's what we do. We drink."

I exchanged weary glances with one of the editors from The Ramapo News. That's what we do? That's what he does. I couldn't bear to sit through this much longer.

The open forum hosted by the Student Government Association in Friends Hall last Wednesday, meant to foster discussion between College administrators and campus residents over safety policies in the Village, revealed a jarring disconnect in perspective between adults in the room and the more vocal members of the crowd.

I support the SGA's efforts. Open forums, at least on paper, can be functional and democratic. But some of the student participants were rude. They took "open forum" to mean "open opportunity to shed any semblance of decorum and back talk Ramapo's higher-ups." They attempted grandstanding like Hillary Clinton in muscle tees and sweatpants, and it was embarrassing.

So let's be real. The Village residents who spoke at the forum want to drink. A lot. And they'll stick it to the man if he tries to interfere. They're not "scared" of Public Safety, menacing though those shiny Explorers may seem. In their minds, Public Safety is a nuisance. The Village is supposed to be a place where they can do what they want, when they want, as loudly as they want, and regular safety patrols will just get in the way.

From an administrator's standpoint, that kind of leniency puts far too much at stake. Ramapo College is a state institution and a business. If the administration treats certain Village residents like "adults" in the way they've demanded, turning a blind eye to underage alcohol consumption, excess occupancy and vandalism, it exposes itself to a laundry list of legal violations, not to mention potential litigation, loss of philanthropic support and a tarnished reputation.

Those residents are also a massive liability, entrusted by their parents to the College's care. By necessity, their safety, and that of students simply trying to get an education, takes precedence over their freedom.

At the forum, that logic fell mostly on deaf ears. The most outspoken residents were there with one purpose-to defend their access to alcohol on campus-and little would appease them short of getting "yes" for an answer. For the reasons above, the administrators couldn't budge on the issue either, leaving the two sides at cross-purposes.

In response, I offer these humble suggestions.

To the administration: throw the book at them. Truly instill the fear that one student so adamantly protested at the forum, until the vandalism and intoxication that recently plagued the Village no longer takes place.

To those select Village residents: Move off campus. It takes the onus off Ramapo to keep you alive and makes you responsible for your own actions, which, if you want to be treated like adults as you say you do, should suit you just fine.

The grown up world is one of accountability, whether you can remember what happened the previous night or not.