Holding Each Other Accountable

The Editorial Board argues that recent party vandalism at the college needs to be met with a dual response — administrative openness and student responsibility.

Let us state the obvious: you should not smash down a bathroom wall. Nor should you shatter vending machines, or break exit signs, or lob giant pumpkins onto the floors of dorms. This semester, however, the obvious has not deterred such vandalism. Why not?

To the Editorial Board, there appear to be two clear causes. First, in the not-so-distant past, the college tore down the Socials, the one unified place for students to gather and socialize on campus, without providing any real replacement. This left a gap in physical social spaces that remains to this day.

Second and more recently, limits on gatherings due to Covid forced students’ social activities underground, leading students to plan and monitor their own parties while hiding from the administration and campus police. This led to a decrease in accountability as events, and the students who attended them, were incentivized to remain hidden — meaning all sorts of negative outcomes, like vandalism, were made more likely to be met without any effective response.

Vandalism, while indefensible, is clearly rooted in, or at the very least, made easier to commit, due to deeper problems within the community. As the Editorial Board discussed the issue, we settled on two possible solutions if we hope to put an end to the burgeoning vandalism problem. The administration should focus on liberally opening up spaces for students’ socialization, in order to disincentivize the harmful underground nature of student life during the pandemic. And more importantly, students need to show that they deserve the trust we so often demand by taking more direct responsibility in governing the Amherst social scene in an open and transparent way in order to disincentivize destructive actions like those of the past couple weeks and make it easier to hold those who commit such actions accountable.

The administration should not be the only force behind the organization of parties on campus. Before the pandemic, students had to fill out an official registration form for all events (including student-run parties) in order to reserve a location, whether it was a dorm’s public common room or a venue like the Powerhouse. The policy was suspended by the college, however, due to the pandemic in an attempt to prevent and mitigate the spread of the virus on campus. In this void, covert student coordination became the basis of social planning at the college. This planning, of course, was less effective than it could have been if it could be transparent and make use of the larger spaces on campus without fear of administrative reprisal.

We acknowledge that the pandemic still largely shapes the college’s decision-making, but the administration should implement changes in their regulation of public spaces that will facilitate building a safer and healthier party scene in the long run. For example, more public locations such as the Powerhouse could be designated as party-specific on most weekends, so that students would not be forced to hold parties in dorms, where vandalism more directly compromises the safety of the students living in those dorms, even those who do not choose to party, and perhaps more importantly forces the college’s already mistreated staff to do extra work to clean up. Having more college-sanctioned non-dormitory spaces would also allow parties to be less hidden, in turn facilitating greater transparency and accountability on the part of students.

We see this semester as a perfect time to develop a student-led model that will reestablish a norm of accountability by allowing for responsible self-governance. That specifically means a student-run registration process, directly placing the responsibility for party organization in the hands of the students who want to have parties. While we should incorporate the aspects of the previous registration system that worked, we should aim to develop a new, student-governed structure that allows students control over their social spaces.

Through a party registration system mainly governed by students, we can directly hold each other accountable for actions that violate our community expectations. It would make it easier to attribute responsibility to the people liable for incidents like the vandalism mentioned earlier or for simply cleaning up afterwards because students are the ones actually at parties when these events take place. Apart from that, we would also enjoy greater flexibility and accessibility when it comes to booking a space or assigning cleaning duties. Both will reduce the workload of college administrative offices and prevent the over-involvement of the ACPD, who most students don’t want to see on their weekend nights out.

Having social events planned, coordinated, and overseen by students will ensure that students themselves are actively looking out for each others’ best interests and well-being. It would also be a boon for our overworked staff, removing unnecessary additions to their workload. Without administrative intervention, students will be incentivized to take the responsibilities of partying into their own hands. Students that want a vibrant social scene will be given the power to create it, and the centralization of party registration under students alongside the availability of public advertising in school-sponsored spaces will allow those people to gather much larger numbers of students into one place. Parties, by the virtue of centralized self-governance, will become more consistent, better advertised, safer, larger, and have less administrative intervention.

The past week hasn’t been a proud one for Amherst partiers. We know that we’re capable of more, and it’s time for students to take action to show that.

Unsigned editorials represent the views of the majority of the Editorial Board — (assenting: 12; dissenting: 0; abstaining: 7).