Valuing community here at Colby
When I visited to Colby for the first time, I was told that this community valued acceptance, tolerance and unity. While in the last month or so, events have demonstrated deplorable behavior, I don’t think all is lost. Proof of this came in the overnight contribution of forty messages to the Civil Discourse this week. The overwhelming response of “Hate is not a Colby Value” shows that students have not been and will not be defeated by the presence of intolerance on the campus, whether it is concerning gender, race or sexuality.
As I scrolled through the discourse on March 11, I was surprised to see the words “Hate IS a Colby Value” amongst the other posts that claimed differently. This point of view (written by Eli Dupree, whom I applaud for his bravery in submitting it) was more focused around the fact that we classify the severity and intention of attacks similar to what happened last week according to the perpetrator’s sobriety. Lately, we’ve become engrossed in a culture of “blame it on the alcohol,” which essentially lets people off the hook for things that would be otherwise seen as inexcusable.
The U.S. Department of Education estimates that 50 to 80 percent of violence (physical/sexual assault, destruction of property and verbal abuse) on campuses is motivated by alcohol. This is something that should not surprise any of us. The real problem, in my opinion, is that on a Sunday morning when the events of the previous night are being retold, any negative experience will be followed up with the expression, “Well they were drunk, they didn’t know what they were doing, it wasn’t their fault.” Clearly, a standard needs to be set, not necessarily on the administrative level, but on the student level. Peer judgment and reaction often speaks louder than any punishment that can be given.
On this campus, letting attacks on individuals or groups slide on this campus is doing nothing for our development and our growth into adults. In fact, it shows those who commit these offenses that intoxication is a justification, not a condition. It’s been said many times this year that Colby is like a bubble; we tend to project the lifestyle we have here onto the outside world, and the ugly truth is, what can be found out there is not the same as what we find here. If you’re at an office party, tipsy from one too many glasses of punch, and you make a comment about a certain group or person, no one is going to think it’s funny. No one is going to excuse it by saying that you weren’t completely sober. I hate to say it, Colby, but intolerance does not just materialize when a beer gets in your system. I despise cliches, but it’s a classic case of “sober thoughts, drunk words.” This is something we’re taught in middle school health class: alcohol won’t change behavior or opinion, it will only magnify it. Setting the example here that there are no consequences for inappropriate behavior, regardless of sobriety, sets us up for more problems in the future than it’s worth. If we can’t stand up to someone and say, “that is not okay” now, who’s to say we can do it later?
For the record, this is not an attack on any individual or group, and saying that consumption of these substances should not happen at all is both unrealistic and unfair. We complain about the drinking age nationally, and the hard alcohol ban on this campus, but if as a community and a generation we cannot hold ourselves accountable for our actions that result from our drinking, we shouldn’t be regarded as responsible enough to drink in the first place.
Colby, we are at war. It’s a battle that began long before we were born, and it’s one that has the potential to still be here after we’re gone. Fortunately though, it’s a battle that we know must be fought, and we know that we have to win. We are a part of a generation that’s supposed to be more accepting and compassionate than all the ones that have come before us. We have been given the opportunity and the privilege of being at a school that has the reputation of creating people that will change the world. Let’s put that expectation to use. Instead of watching and condemning behavior, let’s change it. I have seen the power that we have when we put our minds to something, and I have the upmost faith that we can take this, learn from it and make it better.