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Tenants' Rights Week
by Jason Overman
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Thursday, May 02, 2002
My third and final Sample Column for the Daily Cal. Whew!
A group of students who were, as they see it, suddenly and without warning suspended from activities on this campus. Behind closed doors they've pledged action against what they see as a tyrannical and unaccountable Administration that plays around with their lives for their own unaccountable interests. And it's us vs. them.
Students for Justice in Palestine? No, Greeks.
Dean Kenney banned alcoholic parties at Fraternities for at least until this fall, pointedly not placing a timeline for the resumption of good 'ol Bacchanalian Revelry. In the process, she's demonstrated that the University has only a slight understanding of what the Greek community is all about, and even less of an understanding about the mechanics of Greek Parties. She's lording over a large and diverse community like an inept puppetmaster, and her strings aren't going to work. Dean Kenney: you don't know what you're doing. Stop before things get worse.
Her motives aren't particularly bad. 4.20 culminated in six Fraternities, including mine, being put on the 'bad' list. Two Frat parties in particular, Luau and Pike High, broke the University's byzantine and laborious list of Party Regulations. Pike got overcrowded and had a young Kappa child get a concussion when walking home. Luau had a whole mess of violations. After a year of tinkering around with Greek policy and a laborious, quiet overhaul of Greek law, there was nonetheless metaphorical whisky being poured down the metaphorical breasts of the Greek system. So it's crackdown time, and you better like it.
Counterproductive and stupid. Lets not mince words.
In their overwhelming drive to Fix Greeks, the University has succeeded mainly in driving all drinking deeper underground. Instead of insisting on broad guidelines to dissuade excesses at parties, Administration has tried to catch every underage drinker, keep every bit of hard alcohol away from parties, and keep anything, at all, from happening. That means expensive security guards, expensive bartenders, and parties where the Fraternity chapter throwing it is thinking 'Christ, did we remember to stop "Any activity that incorporates or inherently fosters degrading, demeaning, or inaccurate portrayals of any individual or group based on race, ethnicity, age, gender, sexual preference, or disability " (IFC Social rules)
All this cost has been shifted onto the Fraternities. The Fraternities have moved their parties underground. Only the big Frats can manage to throw even one of these parties a semester. Smaller Chapters like my own will shrug their shoulders, 'forget' to register their party, and invite a 'few friends' over. Lord knows we'd like to have a little security there; keeps the High School students away. We might want a few parties where we hire a bartender. But Dean Kenney's policies have created an all or nothing situation: inherently unsafe underground parties or overly regulated expensive blowouts. It's between Criminalization and No Social Events at all.
There's 33 Fraternities at Berkeley. They're all thinking the same thing right now. Kenney has created a situation where no one can throw a legal party. Very well. We'll have to deal with High School kids with guns, some 18 year old might sneak in and pass out drunk. There's that risk. But the Administration has given us no alternative. We want to be legal, we're forced to be criminal.
Kenney's Summer Committee will be asking the wrong questions this summer. They'll be asking 'How can we stop violations at all these parties?' and probably result in a new codex of restrictions, regulations, and other dead letters. What they should be asking is 'How can we create a social system that will promote safety and security that Fraternities will not fight with every fiber of their being?'
It's not too hard to envision such a system. A flexible sliding scale of responsibilities with a range of ways of coping with them. Minimum standards that deal with emergencies, not every eventuality. An emphasis on the personal responsibility of the Fraternity, with a tacit understanding that malicious and markedly illegal parties will have consequences. This is a very broad outline, but there are hundreds of Social Systems around the country that manage this every day. It's not hard to learn from them.
But Dean Kenney doesn't want that. She's Fed Up. She Wants Solutions. We're going to suffer for it.