Orientation: An Exercise in Preventative Law
Issue   |   Wed, 09/21/2011 - 01:51

Defensive medicine is a practice that is both wasteful and costly. In order to protect himself from being sued, a doctor will perform expensive, complicated and unnecessary procedures. One of the goals of President Obama’s healthcare bill was to make it harder for doctors to be sued in order to eliminate this wasteful practice. Healthcare, however, isn’t the only place where one can find elements of preventative law intruding upon effective practice.

Over the past few years, the first-year Orientation schedule has been expanding, culminating in this year’s extended Orientation, which will be running through early October. And for all the new events that have been added to the schedule, few can be described as fun or memorable — and perhaps even fewer as efficacious.

Instead, Orientation is being continually jam-packed with events that seem designed by the College merely to cover all its bases. The plurality of lectures and meetings about topics like diversity and consent, the countless skits and vignettes put on, the inane squad meetings after every event all prove to parents and perhaps judges and lawyers that the College has done its part in informing students of all the fine print.

To explain, and then repeatedly rehash these issues, is to underestimate the maturity and learning capacity of Amherst students; how many times does the administration think we need to hear about consent before we understand the premise? Most students are quite capable of conducting themselves properly by use of common sense without lessons from the administration. Even if these events were hitting home, how many topics would have to be covered? After all, first-years will be exposed to a larger variety of situations and environments than the College could possibly ever provide talks for.

Presumably, the goal is simply to promote understanding. In some cases, detailed sex talks in the dorms force understanding where it is necessary. And yet, issues arise on campus about things like consent.

But if you walk into the doctor’s office with a cold, and she orders an MRI to make sure that she can’t be held liable for malpractice, you’re still leaving the office with your cold, not to mention a sizeable bill. In the same way that the MRI doesn’t cure rhinovirus, incessant talks about the newest legal definition of consent will never resolve the fundamental issues facing students who struggle to understand it. Students don’t attend the College to receive an education in defensive policy.

Furthermore, the cost from this policy is one that should prove prohibitive in its practice. After arranging talks from deans and SHEs, did the College need to bring in a legal professional for yet another talk about the legalese surrounding consent? Much of the time during Orientation — a time when students are gaining their first impressions of the College — is devoted to repetitive talks; a quick perusal of the orientation brochure produces no fewer than 10 mandatory events that conceivably serve little purpose other than to protect the College from future legal troubles.

The Student does not intend to detract, in any way, from the idea of diversity education. We merely think that immersion in the unique environment of the College is a sufficient lesson. Similarly, we think that a mature and complete understanding of consent is critical, but it’s not something that needs to be bored into the collective mind of the student body at the College’s expense. The best business move, and the easiest way to free up Orientation for more interesting activities, is to end the reign of preventative law.

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