Rant and Roll: On Open Letter To President Chopp

Dear President Chopp,

Let us adopt military jargon for the moment – because currently, this is a war. And right now, every student is a soldier “in the field.” We see what’s going on. We may not know every name of every face that passes by us in the Quad but we share a lot in common (even if you do want to separate us into houses based on our race or sexuality). President Chopp, it has been a long time for you, but please remember back to when you were a student. There was the boy whose parents were going through a nasty divorce. The girl who lost her childhood best friend in a car accident. The young man of the Economics department who truly wanted to be a music major, but he feared society wouldn’t view it as “acceptable.” The girl who felt she was never thin enough, smart enough, or rich enough and reminded herself of this every free moment she had. The small town boy at the new big school. The city girl who got bored.

A college is a place where you can walk into a party of 100 people and feel lonely. A place where you feel that if you fall behind one day, you can never catch up. A place where when you get a C+ on a research paper, it’s guaranteed the girl sitting next to you got an A. Adults in the real world are concerned with “keeping up with the Joneses,” but in college, we’re concerned with keeping up with the Kates in Pysch 150 and the Peters in the dorm. We want to please our parents, our friends, our lovers, our enemies, our professors and, sometimes the hardest, ourselves. We experience high highs and low lows and rarely have time to savor the in betweens.

This is what causes binge drinking, aggression, sexual assault, closed mindedness and all the other attitudes, behaviors and actions your administration is trying to eradicate. I want to sue the Colgate administration for negligence, because by pointing the finger at the Greek system, you are choosing to overlook the real causes of these problems and choosing not to actually do anything positive to change this university. Binge-drinking, violence, sexual assault – these are serious problems that need to be evaluated and changed, and that will not happen by making them the beard for your vendetta against the Greek system. Owning the Greek houses will only pave the way for one thing, and one thing only: the eventual eradication of the Greek life at Colgate. What’s left? At least you’ll offer “workshops on public speaking, conflict resolution, teamwork, active listening, decision-making, leadership and strategic planning, and help students develop and sharpen community building skills” (from “A Vision of Residential Education”). Making these broad (pun intended) plans that do not target specific issues will not produce positive changes. These programs are designed to look good in a prospective college catalogue, not actually function efficiently on a living, working campus – which makes me wonder if all of this is for us, the students, or to justify our “liberalness” in the race to top the U.S. News rankings.

I am “in the field” President Chopp. I’m using my liberal arts education every day to assess what is moving and shaking around me. I’m “seeking the truth.” And I know what you and the Board and the faculty are trying to do. It may be put into effect, but mark my words, it will not work. Because in between your pseudo politically correct, unnatural homily manifested in the “New Vision for Residential Education,” and true university Utopia, there is reason. There is the reason to understand that the Greek system alone does not poison a community. That underage drinking is sadly, a fact of life that can only be changed with an amendment to state laws. That sexual assault happens because some were never taught (or can not comprehend) the difference between right and wrong, “yes” and “no.” That understanding and relationships cannot be forced by claiming “Diversity!” and expecting change overnight. That oversensitivity can actually desensitize a community. That change lies in the heart and mind of the individual and that NO amount of bureaucratic rambling, guidelines, task forces, social engineering or forced dogmatic political sensitivity will change a man in a positive fashion.

It angers my heart to know that the powers that be at Colgate think they can pull wool over my eyes. President Chopp, do you think I’m daft enough to be duped into believing that the Greek system is the root of all this undergrad evil? Ask your good friend John Golden what the Board’s next step will be once Colgate has acquired all the houses – and if underage drinking, violence and sexual assault still fester on this campus? Because it will. There will still be an 18 year old freshman who wants to have a beer and fit in. There will still be testosterone filled young men who throw punches after drinking too much. There will always be pretty girls who will go beyond their sexual boundaries to please a handsome boy who never learned the difference between “yes” and “no.” How do you and Dean Weinberg plan to change human nature?

I hate to borrow from the French but here is a suggestion that worked well for one of our founding fathers: Laissez-faire. If you make subtle, positive changes1 to our social and educational environment, President Chopp, there will be the window of opportunity for us to grow and change as individuals. And because of that, we will be proud of those developments, be more likely to hold on to them and nurture them, and be stronger, thoughtful, engaged, democratic individuals.

Katherine K. Eberly ’06

(Footnotes)1-Some ideas for these “subtle, positive changes” include: a new, large state of the art gym so that students have another social outlet (a place to “hang” if you will) that promotes healthy alternatives to drinking and drug use as well as bolster the already thriving intramural athletics program. How about course registration? It seems that this is a major source of stress yet proves that we want to learn, that there are courses we’d love to take to further our development — we just can’t get in. Take the money spent on all of this Residential Education rhetoric and allocate it to Student funds for all the wonderful things that different student groups organize. These are just starting suggestions; I’m already working on my next letter to you outlining similar ideas from which students could benefit.