Welcome back to high school.
Last Thursday, the university announced a new policy. To wit, anytime an undergraduate gets cited for a misdemeanor involving alcohol or an illegal drug, the university is going to send a letter home to his or her parents. The policy exempts graduate students and people who call paramedics because they poisoned themselves. Our campus administrators say they hope their policy of infantilizing students will “spark discussion” – unfortunately, the discussions they want are between adults who happen to be students and adults who happen to be the parents of those students.
The real discussion should be between students and this university. (Recently-elected members of student government, take note: If you believe, as you so often said you did during your campaigns, that students should have a voice in the decision that affect their lives, there’s no time like the present for keeping that little promise.)
The Parental Notification Program, which will start this Fall, demeans students. Nearly every undergraduate is over 18 – old enough to vote, old enough serve on a jury, old enough to be sent to war and old enough to go to jail. It is not the university’s job to be our mothers or to call our mothers. The university is legally forbidden from sending students’ grades home for a reason that almost seems quaint now: Making mistakes and facing the consequences yourself is part of becoming an adult. If the university wants to do something about all the booze and boozehounds in Isla Vista, it might try something less insulting to the people it says it’s trying to help. The university could – and this would require it taking that crazy step into the abyss of helping to redevelop I.V. – ask the county to enforce its ordinances and reduce the number of liquor licenses to a legal level.
Instead it seems as if the university would rather break its promises. When administrators extended UCSB’s jurisdiction to Isla Vista last summer (when students were conveniently out of town) they said they were only going to punish students for serious offenses, certainly not misdemeanors – they didn’t want to be babysitters, they said. While the notification program doesn’t violate the letter of that promise since the university isn’t doing any punishing itself, it violates the spirit of it. For students with strict or fundamentalist upbringings, this is the worst punishment the university could possibly inflict upon them.
But fine, if the administration wants to treat undergraduates like children, here are some other things it should send notes home for: Playing music too loud, staying up all night, not eating right, smoking cigarettes, missing class, having sex, going out dressed like that and being philosophy majors.
And since humiliation is UCSB’s new way of dealing with noxious behavior, how about we start with the administrators responsible for this asinine policy? Maybe we could set up stocks for them in Storke Plaza, display them for edification and lob rotting tomatoes at them. Perhaps that’s too drastic. Some less physical punishment is needed – these are university employees, after all. A good scarlet letter should do the trick, say, a nice, big “A” that could stand for “administrator” or some less cruel epitaph.