To begin, I think its best to say right off the bat that my initial response to Bucknell’s campus climate report was negative. Yes, some of the figures written in the report were startling, and definitely issues that need to be worked on by the University and its students, but I found there were major problems with how the campus climate was approached. Having just finished house party weekend, and looking at the reports that have surfaced over the past year and half, I think it is safe to say that the campus climate report has been relatively ineffective with its goals, and it is time for us to start a different approach to solve the University’s problems.

There are a few issues I had with the campus climate, which I will elaborate on first, before moving onto what I think might be potential solutions. First, I think that far too much blame for the current campus situation was placed on the Greek system. As a member of a sorority, I was offended that the campus climate report made it seem like the Greek system caused the majority of the campus’s problems, especially given that such a small percentage of the school’s population was actually polled for research. Second, I think that the majority of the issues talked about within the report are the result of this country’s rules and regulations that aren’t keeping up with the times. Yes, I’m talking about the drinking age. And while I don’t think that this is an issue that can be resolved at Bucknell, I believe that the school’s stance on drinking is furthering a negative environment. Lastly, I believe that too few students were involved in coming up with solutions to the climate report, and it did not equally reflect the atmosphere of our school. College is a time for students to experiment with their self-identity and push boundaries in all ways, which is why solutions need to come from within the student community. I’m sure that professors teaching in the 60’s and 70’s also thought their students were out of control, and that something needed to be done, when “rock” music festivals and protests started to emerge, but that is part of the experience of University.

Before I begin with my potential solutions, though, I have a slight disclaimer: I believe if the drinking age were lowered to 18 or 19, the campus environment would drastically change. After living in Canada and going abroad last semester in Scotland, I have seen the climate of a University where the drinking age was not a constant issue. In Scotland, there were four pubs within our student centre alone, and therefore, many of the social events occurring at the University were held by the University. These pubs also offered the cheapest drinks in the city, drawing in students, and leading to two things. First, students had to pay for each drink they bought, lowering the total amount of alcohol they consumed in a night. Second, it allowed the University to keep tabs on their students, and keep them all in a safe and public place when they chose to drink.

That being said, I think there are the two main things that should change to promote a healthier University lifestyle and climate at Bucknell. First I believe the attitude that Public Safety has towards Bucknell students is the principle cause for a lot of the binge drinking that occurs on campus. Many people I know operate under the impression that Public Safety is “out to get them,” and I have to say in my experience, I have found this to be the case. This leads a lot of girls, in particular, to take multiple shots before they leave their dorms and run to their next destination before the alcohol kicks in, so Public Safety won’t catch them. Unfortunately, this also leads many people to overestimate the amount of alcohol they can and should ingest. My brother went to Clermont McKenna, and I have many friends who go to other schools in the U.S. where the University’s students have significantly better relationships with their campus police. In my opinion, it is the job of a school’s campus police to protect its students, not punish them. Having campus security on the students’ sides can also help prevent sexual assaults occurring on campus. Many schools in the U.S. have safe driving programs that can help get students home in a safe way. If students weren’t afraid of public safety, and could instead call them when they felt they were in personal danger, I believe sexual assaults and issues of that kind would decrease.

Lastly, I think that Bucknell’s attempts to “limit” the Greek system’s presence on campus has actually caused it to become more exclusive, and has cut off the Greeks from other areas in the school. I think a different, and better, solution to this problem would be to accept the notion of “mixers” at Bucknell, and encourage Greeks and non-Greek clubs to mix instead. By encouraging different organizations on campus to get together for various events, Bucknell could unite its student body. I saw this work while I was abroad as different clubs constantly held “parties” or “mixers” together. This allowed a variety of different people to meet, and created a more inclusive and tolerant environment.

9 responses »

  1. Steph P. says:

    It’s funny because my parents never understood how American culture sets their boundaries with ages: go on a date at 15, drive at 16, move out at 18, drink at 21. Age requirements are installed to define maturity levels and promote safety. Yet with all of these “coming of age” standards American kids act up more than kids in any other country. I thought your international approach was interesting. My parents come from a country where no one really knows the drinking age, (I later found out it was 18). With that said, Trinidad’s youth really does not have a problem with drinking. Kids don’t go to college to get the “college experience”, they go to get an education and that’s it. I’m sure this is the case in the countries you’ve visited as well. Although I’m going to get a lot of hate for saying this, I think the Greek system is one of the factors responsible for Bucknell’s issues. No other country has this longstanding culture, and therefore does not face the same problems we do in America. Just look at the stereotypes of frats and sororities: binge drinking, obscene partying, overdoses. I believe any stereotype embodies some truth, and that holds true for the Greek system especially.

  2. Matt says:

    Great post, Abby. I think you hit the nail on the head. Newsflash, Bucknell: It’s college. People are going to drink a lot of alcohol. Always have, always will. This is a time to experiment, and to see the consequences of your actions. And let’s be serious, most of the people in charge right now when to school in the 60’s and 70’s; there is absolutely NOTHING we can do that was any worse than, oh, I don’t know, tripping on LSD on your dorm roof? So yeah, maybe instead of prosecuting us for minor and nearly universal offenses you could try to look out for the students instead. I think your examples of lower drinking ages leading to more responsible alcohol consumption and how less regulation leads to greater collaboration are also spot on. I had plenty of non-Greek friends who would have loved to come hang out with us, but the school has made it so impossible to open up and made us so liable that we tend to shy away from it. The whole system is ridiculous and archaic, I can’t believe they still cling to it.

  3. Loukas T says:

    I know a lot of people share your views on lowering the drinking age. I actually am not a huge fan of lowering the drinking age mostly because I feel that the average American 18 year old is probably not ready to have that responsibility. However, Bucknell students are probably a lot more responsible and intelligent than the average teen and therefore I can certainly understand the frustration surrounding the issue at this school. Obviously we don’t need the national law to be changed, instead Bucknell could be somewhat more lax on the issue.

  4. Jordi says:

    sigh….

    “so few students polled.” One of the polls, the senior survey, has 100% participation.

    The qualitative data was much smaller. More can be added. Some valid points there.

    “placed all blame on Greek system.” Was this in the report? or in the student reaction to it? The report covers many topics.

    At the same time, many of you all state on the one hand that the Greek system is dominant, and then turn around and say too much focus is place on Greek system. Do you not see the tension in those two arguments?

  5. Jordi says:

    In the 70s, at Kent State, during anti-war protests, they shot a few students. That is poor climate. 😉

  6. Jordi says:

    Good ideas about the “mixers” thing. One aspect I notice about this campus is the expectation of lots of formalization of social boundaries. How much spontaneous or less formal grouping of students happen? Do all social times have to be organized by someone (ACE, Greek, whatever)?

  7. Jordi says:

    I wish you all would engage in some self-experimentation. I actually think sometimes that from freshman to senior (or maybe junior, seniors start to differentiate), students get MORE homogenous. I think more self-experimentation would lead to more heterogeneity, not less.

  8. Jordi says:

    @ Stephanie. The international comparison is interesting. I think you are right that Greek orgs are mostly American, but I think in the UK, the older universities do have some kinds of internal, formal social clubs. I wonder if they were at least the template for what emerged here.

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