Our Changing Social Climate
Issue   |   Tue, 10/04/2016 - 23:36

Critiques of social life at Amherst are nothing new. From the demolition of the Socials to various changes in party policy to the current glaring lack of diverse options, the search for solutions to the problems surrounding social life on campus has reached a new climax. It’s evident that the college experience extends beyond the academic and academically-associated extracurricular sphere. To hinder, rather than nourish, a portion of Amherst life that is undoubtedly crucial to the formation of meaningful relationships is unrealistic in today’s collegiate social climate. As students continue to navigate the new set-up of the social scene, it’s crucial to maintain a balance between the goals of safety that the administration, police officers and students all share with the social needs of the student body. The editorial board urges transparency and collaboration in a necessary reassessment of party policy at the college.

We recognize, of course, that it is crucial to consider the side of the administration and Amherst College police in this assessment. Safety is the main priority in any situation, and this is of course a noble goal. However, restrictive regulations and confrontational encounters only further provoke dangerous behavior that make students look for creative solutions to evade strictness. We do not envy or blame the police officer tasked with breaking up a party on a Saturday night. But, we do urge increased transparency and acknowledgement. If students knew the police officers that were coming to check on their party, they would not feel intruded upon and likely treat them with more respect. More importantly, a clear understanding of the direct goals and details of the College’s party policy would help students follow these guidelines. When a party is shut down, the reasons behind such action are seldom clearly explained to students, and they then only walk away confused and unprepared to conduct a future social gathering on campus.

If students were permitted to be appropriately involved in the formation or editing of the party policy, they would be undoubtedly more willing to follow it. There are gaps between student and administrator perceptions when it comes to partying, which result in misunderstandings when it comes to actual implementation.

The flux of Amherst’s drinking culture in part coincides with the altering of campus social spaces. The spaces in the triangle seem to be more heavily policed than the suite-style spaces in Jenkins (and previously the Socials). However, students are making an effort to forge a more inclusive and diverse social scene. The areas in which parties are not likely to be shut down due to heavily-enforced noise regulations aren’t conducive to larger more inclusive parties (and are more likely to result in overcrowding). If larger spaces, like those in the Triangle, continue to be so hyper-controlled, gatherings will be forced become smaller, and thus more exclusive. In fact, the only large, accessible space on campus is the Powerhouse — a space that is only available to be registered by one group at a time, a space that can only be filled by an unrealistic number of people and a space that hinders spontaneity due to the reservation process and other logistical hurdles. If spaces like the triangle can be registered for events, parties in those spaces should not be shut down for seemingly unexplained reasons. An adequate assessment of party policy must include consideration of the current availability of physical spaces on campus.

From a health and safety perspective, the hyper-policing of student social life can lead to unsafe drinking practices. It also hinders the formation of trust-based and dependable relationships among the student body and the administration and college police. Particularly in today’s tense political and social climate, the forging of such relationships is crucial.

After years of attempts, it’s clear that there is no easy solution to the College’s stance on parties. The detriments to an inadequate party policy are evident, however. By imposing stringent restrictions on student social life, students will inevitably turn to new and potentially dangerous measures. Students need a party policy that recognizes that partying does occur on college campuses, still continues to prioritize safety and transparency, but acknowledges how these goals interact specifically on our unique campus.

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