To a worm in horseradish
A few weeks ago, a popular New England sports blog called BarstoolSports.com ran a post making fun of Colby for banning hard alcohol. Among the 29 comments to the post was a complaint from someone claiming to be a Colby student. The poster labeled the ban "a bullshit thing that came out of a bunch of black kids getting beat up by campus security and the cops when they were drunk."
Not only is this statement an inaccurate account of what has become known as the "April 12th incident," but it is a gross oversimplification of the significant amount of time and deliberation that went into instituting the hard alcohol ban.
First, I would like to state that I have no interest in editorializing on whether the hard alcohol ban is a good or bad thing. I bring the above quote up, however, because it is an example (albeit an extreme one) of a greater problem within the Colby community that the hard alcohol ban has brought to light: a communication breakdown within the Colby community.
As the Assistant News Editor and the Student Government Association beat writer for the Echo last year, I followed all of the administration's, the Campus Culture Working Group's and the SGA's progress toward the hard alcohol ban very closely. I was at all of the meetings and forums that were open to the public. I spoke about the issue extensively with SGA representatives and administrators. I also heard a lot of talk among students about the ban, and quite frankly, a great deal of the students I spoke to about the ban misunderstood the reasons for its inception.
No one I ever spoke to was as far off-target as the blog commenter quoted above, but there was a fair amount of students who didn't understand exactly whom the ban came from, or how the ban fit into the larger issues the CCWG sought to address. That lack of understanding was not a result of failures on the part of the SGA and the administration. The students I spoke to weren't ignorant or unintelligent people by any means. So why is there such a gap in communication between the administration and a significant part of the student body?
There is an old Yiddish saying that goes, "to a worm in horseradish, the world is horseradish." It is my belief that all of us at Colby are worms in horseradish. That is not necessarily a bad thing. In fact, I think it can be quite good to a certain extent. Here's an example: my jar of horseradish is the Echo. I've dedicated my Colby career to the Echo. I wake up and think about the Echo, and when I finish my day, either sweet dreams of the Echo lull me to sleep, or terrible nightmares about the Echo torment me (depending, of course, on how much coffee I had to drink that day to fulfill all my editorial duties and how upset my stomach is as a result).
The fact of the matter is, I know most people don't read the Echo all that intently, and there is a large portion of campus that never even picks up the Echo at all. Whenever that fact starts to irk me, I always think of the captain of the field hockey team. I have no idea who this person is. I've never even been to a field hockey game. But that's my point; she probably doesn't know who I am either, but I'm sure she's worked just as hard and given up just as much for field hockey as I have for the Echo. Because that's her jar of horseradish.
I think it's wonderful that Colby has so many great teams and organizations, like the field hockey team or the Echo, to which so many students can devote themselves and benefit from. The example I just gave, however, demonstrates one of the pitfalls of having so many students living together in the same tiny community, who are so intently focused on so many different things. It's easy for everybody to get out of touch, for lines of communication to break.
So at the end of 2009, when the CCWG report that recommended the ban of hard alcohol was made public, some time between midterms and exams, it isn't terribly surprising that not a lot of students took a great deal of notice. By the time we've finished our homework and participated in the extracurricular of our choice, it's hard enough to keep up with what all our friends are doing, let alone the activities of the administration and SGA. On a personal level, it's hard to blame students for staying in their jars of horseradish; students are only here for four years, and "President of the Debate Team" looks a hell of a lot better on a resume than "very attentive to community issues." But there has to be some middle ground between focus on personal development and development of community standards. The obstacle between the Colby community and that middle ground is sustaining everyone's attention, keeping our heads poked out of our respective jars of horseradish long enough for everybody to get on the same wavelength. It's going to take some very bright leaders to get us there.