Changes to student programs reflect fluctuating social landscape
Campus traditions made safer to adjust to shifting behavior
Published: Thursday, October 4, 2012
Updated: Thursday, October 4, 2012 08:10
Debauchery, it would seem, has lost a friend in Tufts.
Effective for the first time at Spring Fling in 2010, the steering committee banned alcohol from the notoriously sloppy concert that had flooded the Hill in previous years with University-sanctioned alcohol.
The following March, outgoing University President Lawrence Bacow put an end to the decades-long Naked Quad Run (NQR) tradition that, for one night a year, made it socially acceptable for Jumbos to shed their clothes and stampede the Residential Quad in naked glory.
This summer, 239 incoming freshmen spent two weeks in the woods with a Tufts Wilderness Orientation (TWO) that had discarded its traditionally raunchy games, songs and general enthusiasm for nudity in lieu of professional leadership and first-aid training.
And this year, Tufts Dance Collective will take the stage with fewer dances and participants as a measure taken by the Office for Campus Life (OCL) to prevent the kind of destruction intoxicated dancers wreaked on Cohen Auditorium last year with spray paint.
As wild times are inhibited by new restrictions, student backlash against regulation has ranged from the civilized — see: Excessively Overdressed Quad Stroll — to the outraged — “Begone, Bacow. You are a teetotaler and a bore,” one commenter wrote on the Tufts Daily website amid threats from alumni to withhold donations.
Within the short span of time that most undergraduates spend on the Hill, this quick succession of changes could seem to indicate a tilt of the scales towards conservative, good-clean-fun at the expense of the kind of debauchery that life in college used to promise.
“I do realize when you put them together ... new students could come in and hear from upper class students, ‘You know, not so long ago there was this and this,’
and they would get the idea that ... there’s [been] a moral crackdown,” Dean of Student Affairs Bruce Reitman said.
But administrators agree that these alterations, as well as the overall taming down of Tufts’ student activities, are part of an overall growing sensitivity to the problem of excessive alcohol consumption and the risks of letting loose in a more dangerous society.
“It’s not an effort, it’s not a structural strategic plan of any sort — it’s a more complex world,” Reitman said. “Some of it is just coincidence, [but] it’s not just chance that these things happen in these years. You just have more people thinking about these things, and parents are quicker to call when they hear about something.”
Each of the recent decisions to change these traditions was a reaction to specific incidents of student misbehavior, Office of Campus Life Director Joe Golia said.
“There certainly wasn’t some administrator saying, ‘Let’s get rid of [the Naked Quad Run (NQR)]’, for instance,” he said. “The reaction was based on stuff that happened during those years.”
Overall, though, a more extreme approach to alcohol consumption is a big part of the equation, Golia said.
“I went to college in the ’80s [and] it was not like this. People did not drink to the extent that they do now, and I didn’t see the damage like you see now,” Golia said. “I never saw such hard-core drinking. I was shocked to see that. I never heard about transports or people ... going to the hospital.”
Golia commented on the past Spring Fling policy that permitted alcohol and its inappropriateness on today’s college campus.
“In this day and age, that they were still allowing six-packs to be brought into an event with underage people at it, that’s total 1980s college,” Golia said. “With so many problems with alcohol at colleges and universities, the fact that we were still doing that is actually kind of embarrassing.”
Questions like these were the driving force behind the decisions to remove alcohol from Spring Fling and to cancel NQR, according to Director of Alcohol and Health Education Ian Wong.
In the case of NQR, a tradition with origins on the Hill in the 1970s, Wong found that the demeanor of the event had changed.
“What originally was, ‘Let’s get naked and run around the quad,’ suddenly turned into these standoffs between the police and students,” Wong said.
A similar transformation occurred in the behavior of students at Spring Fling. In the year before the show went dry, emergency calls for dangerously intoxicated concertgoers overwhelmed local ambulance services, and at least 10 students were sent to hospitals in what was declared a mass casualty incident.
“Over the years, we’re seeing more and more incidents ... we almost had a student die,” Wong said. “It wasn’t that that made us say no more alcohol at Spring Fling. It was a slow and kind of steady increase in problems ... and if you kind of figure out where this is going ... is the next thing going to be a death?”
According to Reitman, beyond dangerous drinking, schools like Tufts are part of a society generally more sensitive to issues of safety in the wake of increased reporting of sexual assault and dangerous behavior.