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The Scarlet & Black

The Scarlet & Black

Substance-free policy limits self-governance, choice

The administration posted their proposed uniform substance-free travel policy on PioneerWeb this week. As perhaps expected, it has not been well received by the vast majority of students. The Scarlet & Black also opposes this policy.

This position comes as no surprise given the editorial that appeared in this space on Oct. 7, 2011. Our main concerns in that editorial were about the process the administration used to establish the policy and the implications of the administration mandating how SGA allocates it’s funding. We still hold those concerns, but the administration asked for student opinion on the policy itself and so we gladly offer our opinion.

The rationale for the policy supposes that a uniform policy for trips is necessary because it provides for the safety and well being of students as well as protects the college’s liabilities and reputation. From the point of view of the administration, this policy is in accordance with the principal of self-governance.

Concerning the necessity of uniformity, not all off-campus trips are created equal. The S&B acknowledges that the three main types of trips that this policy affects (athletic, academic and service) do not require alcohol. We understand that the administration would like to apply a baseline standard for all these trips, as is made perfectly clear in the fourth paragraph of the policy context. We even agree with the College in that, “[S]tudents should understand that these learning opportunities require a measure of decorum. … As such, the College expects students will hold themselves to a higher standard when necessary.” However, we believe that this already occurs without a policy in place, regardless of location.

Each trip offers different experiences that depend on the motivations and expectations of the group planning the trip. Members of the Men’s and Women’s swim team, for example, participate in a “Dry February” as a part of their taper for their conference meet. On the other hand, there are plenty of reasonable instances when drinking off-campus is incidental or arguably advantageous. For example, if of-age students go to an academic conference and attendees go out for drinks after the day’s events, at the very least most would recognize this as a valuable networking experience. When students decide to travel to do service work, whether the of-age participants drink later that evening does not diminish their commitment or the importance of their work. Although these types of situations do not require drinking, they don’t preclude it either, so a rule mandating one position over the other is arbitrary. Each student or group should decide how they address alcohol on their own, without it needing to be mandated, based on what experience students expect to get out of their trip.

The heart of this issue is self-governance, and the heart of self-governance is choice. There is no choice in this policy except, choose to follow the administration’s arbitrary rules, or choose not to go on these trips. Self-governance requires trust from the administration, and we realize that geographically the “Grinnell bubble” of influence is limited and the “real world” does not operate on the same rules. But the purpose of a liberal arts philosophy is lost if we can’t extend it into the real world. We thought the principal of self-governance that we operate on locally was “a higher standard,” than the one found in “the real world.” If self-governance is not, then we shouldn’t endorse it.

Lastly, the pweb link is a terrific idea, one that we hope the campus embraces.

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  • C

    Caleb NeubauerFeb 10, 2012 at 12:07 pm

    “As perhaps expected, [the policy] has not been well received by the vast majority of students.”

    That is quite a statement. While this may not be an academic paper, I find this assertion—without some semblance of citation or reference—to be somewhat problematic. Perhaps you have a number to back up this claim?