This spring semester the College will be implementing as a trial run several changes to its party policy. Last week, Dean Larimore emailed the students regarding these policy changes, and despite its verbiage, the letter summed up an earnest effort by the administration to improve social life at the College. The events of last semester, especially those of Crossett Christmas, demonstrated the necessity of changes to the party policy; this semester will hopefully prove their efficacy.
In prior semesters, the difficulty of registering a party imposed prohibitive costs and liabilities on students who may have hoped to host a gathering in public spaces, such as residential common areas. By discouraging parties in public spaces, past policy exacerbated problems of overcrowding and oversight at private parties, particularly in the social dorms.
The new policy provides several incentives for students to host registered parties in public spaces. First, registering a party no longer requires any monetary expense; in the past, registered parties were required to hire a crowd manager, which could cost as much as $34 an hour. Second, the availability of straightforward registration forms online and the almost immediate reviewal of requests (parties with fewer than one hundred people can be registered as late as the Thursday before the weekend of the party) facilitates the registration process. Third, by clarifying the responsibilities and consequences of hosting a registered party, the new policy significantly reduces uncertainty around potential risks and liabilities, which in the past dissuaded students from choosing to register a party.
There is good reason to believe that more registered parties will improve the quality and safety of social life on campus. The social dorms contain some of the most dilapidated facilities on campus, while there are many public spaces that would be ideal, in terms of space and lighting, for hosting student gatherings. In addition, the opening of other spaces will help reduce traffic around the Social Quad, which may improve experiences at parties in the social dorms as well.
On paper, the new policy is very liberal and lenient. It is important that enforcement of the policy is consistent with the codified text and with student expectations. Campus police will be aware of the locations of registered parties. If they were to preemptively visit pre-registered parties, students would be instantly be deterred from registering future parties. It is in the best interest of student safety that enforcement should focus on serious problems (which are far more likely to occur in private spaces rather than registered parties) instead of dwelling on trivial mistakes. Minor infractions should not force a party to have to shutdown and hosts should be able contact campus police without fear of punitive consequences.
Because registering parties entrusts certain responsibilities to the individual hosts and empowers them with means of recourse to address unruly guests, registered parties should be far better behaved than parties in the social dorms, where — in any area outside of one’s own private suites — no one has much of an incentive or ability to deal with problems. Nonetheless, it is necessary to keep in mind that the new policy changes are being run this semester as a pilot test. They are generous but by no means guaranteed, and students therefore must reciprocate the administration’s generosity with a commensurate level of responsibility.