Stealing the Grade

Elizabeth Stein

College Prowler, a popular new college guide on the market touting the fact that it is “written by students for students,” gives Colgate an A+ in the category of Campus Safety. For those of us concerned with grades (in other words, everyone at Colgate), this is a pretty good score.

Rarely are students concerned for their safety and security, especially when Campo’s worries are forgotten room keys, parking tickets and fire alarms set off by burnt popcorn in dorm rooms. Already, dorm codes have been shared and rooms are frequently left unlocked and open — all the better to facilitate meeting new people. Colgate students are confident enough to walk alone up the hill, and even if they were threatened, are probably athletic enough to kick the crap out of anyone in their way.

When a friend of mine’s iPod Touch went suspiciously missing on the first day of classes, I was na’vely shocked. But this is Colgate, I thought, that stuff just doesn’t happen here.

Except it does. In 2006, Colgate had 36 reports of burglary on On-Campus property, and even last spring there was a rise in theft rates according to Campus Safety.

We were all accepted to one of the elitist institutions in America, proving we’re all smart, but then why would we do something so stupid? We’ve also all proven that we don’t need to do something so desperate, as Colgate students are typically well off. When we matriculate, we sign a policy attesting to our academic trustworthiness, but what we don’t sign is anything binding us to good character in other aspects of our lives here.

Our mission statement shows that the university will provide us an education if we’re diverse, talented, intellectual and sophisticated, but says nothing about ascribing to values like honor and respect. And since when do we get off being sophisticated but not honorable?

Some other schools may be ok with something so despicable, but Colgate needs to raise the bar: it is inadmissible that someone invited to such a prestigious experience would even consider something as petty as theft, and moreover that Colgate does not even stress its unacceptability to begin with.

As the school year starts, we’re all trying to make a good impression and learn as much as we can about people — making it so much more distressing that the concern of thefts has already occurred. We’re all choosing to make Colgate our home — and for the freshmen, a new home. The concept of home implies safety, comfort and unconditional respect and trust.

One of the best parts of Colgate is our pride: our pride in our academics, our athletics, our involvement and our success. But nobody should be proud of crime.

President of the University and Professor of Philosophy & Religion Rebecca Chopp, explaining on our school website a plan to “amplify the university’s excellence,” states, “the world needs the kind of people who graduate from Colgate.” But the world doesn’t need more thieves. Those 36 thefts are 36 too many.

So as we strive to become better thinkers and harder workers and stronger players, we should add a couple basic values to that impressive list of things every Colgate student is good at, so perhaps we can score an A+ in integrity too.