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4/20 Crackdown Highlights Administrative Hostility

Jim Finnel

Fallen Cannabis Warrior & Ex News Moderator
Last Wednesday marked the fourth year in a row in which I have attended the informal Tisch Library roof gathering on April 20, or "4/20" as it is affectionately called by those familiar with its distinguished status as the international holiday of the marijuana counterculture. Like each of the previous years, the minutes approaching 12 a.m. and 4:20 p.m. saw a massive influx of students proudly displaying their knitted ponchos, Bob Marley T-shirts and glossy red eyes. But unlike each of the previous years, also in attendance this year were various administrative deans and a large Tufts University Police Department ( TUPD ) contingency. IDs were taken, joints were stomped out and, in at least one instance, a student was tackled and forcibly restrained ( for reasons, I may add, which entirely avoided me as I watched on in surprised disbelief ).

Before I continue, I don't intend to come off as a pothead upset that he was thwarted in his attempts to publicly engage in illegal activity -- I personally had an exam early Wednesday morning and a class at 4:30 that evening, which barred me from participation. Rather, I see this, as the latest in a string of misguided decisions on the part of the Tufts administration that highlight the divide that exists between the student body and the powers that be. I acknowledge that it is perfectly within the rights of Dean of Student Affairs Bruce Reitman and others to enforce the rules that exist on this campus in order to maintain order. I question, however, the logic in taking aggressive measures to create a climate in which the students at this school are placed at odds with an antagonistic university administration. Is it sensible for the governing members of an institution that indulges in its image as a bastion of progressivism and liberal education to take these backward steps in how they deal with the very students who make this campus what it is?

Since arriving at Tufts I have watched as the university has slowly found ways to put itself increasingly at odds with its students. When I was a freshman, each student was afforded one alcohol-related Tufts Emergency Medical Service ( TEMS ) call without any punitive measures. Coming into my sophomore year, I learned that first-time offenses meant immediate placement on the level-one disciplinary probation list, or pro-one ( I suppose that is an issue for another op-ed, but I will say that the university should want students to use the TEMS resource, rather than place them in the dangerous position in which they must weigh the safety of a friend against the disciplinary consequences that the friend might face -- and probably resent ). The Naked Quad Run ( NQR ) has been canceled, parties across campus are broken up with greater enthusiasm and at earlier hours and roommates are now encouraged to tattle on one another for sexual activity rather than first exercising the maturity and social skills necessary to have an honest conversation ( which, I will add, are as important to leading an independent life, if not more so, as anything this school can teach us in a lecture or textbook ). In my involvement in Greek life here, I have observed that the university does not stand by its fraternities, though it willfully acknowledges the significant role they play in the campus social life.

I am sure there are people who will read this and think to themselves that I am just another college kid advocating for sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll. But what I really want to get at is that the Tufts administration has shown to me repeatedly that it is fundamentally out of touch with its students and the practicalities of life on this college campus. When Spring Fling my freshman year manifested itself into the infamous "mass casualty incident" the brilliant and bold solution devised by Tufts involved shortening the performance list and making it a "dry" event -- as if the 21-year-olds bringing in six-packs were the ones being hauled off in ambulances and not the freshman ripping shots in their dorms. Two performing acts instead of three will not stop people from pregaming; shutting down NQR will not change the fact that binge drinking occurs and that there are many students at this school who don't have enough experience with alcohol to understand their limits. And I can guarantee that breaking up the 4/20 celebration on the library roof last week did not prevent a single person so inclined from smoking to their lungs' content in their dorm room or at an off-campus apartment or in any other deserted nook in the area.

These actions do, however, result in an at times hostile relationship between the administration and the students, in which both sides view each other with animosity and even contempt. Conflicts such as that of this year's NQR, in which officers have been widely accused of violent overreaction, are the inevitable products of an environment in which both sides find it a matter of "Us" against "Them." Maybe the kid I saw taken down by the TUPD officer at the rooftop celebration on 4/20 did something I did not notice to warrant such a response, but were the officers not instructed to disperse the crowd and write up students, it is likely that the incident would never have occurred. I agree with University President Lawrence Bacow's position that "no tradition is worth sacrificing a life to preserve," and therefore can understand his motivation for ending NQR ( if, as I don't think is the case, we really have seen its end ). But with regard to 4/20, what grave danger loomed over this tradition that compelled immediate action? Unless Tufts was accounting for the not-impossible situations in which a student were to die from either munchy-induced sugar overdose or an ill-advised attempt at flying, I can see no pressing problems presented by the event.

Even three years ago, when marijuana was still criminal in Massachusetts, the university took the more pragmatic stance of convenient ignorance. I value very highly the education I have received at this school, and I don't see 4/20 as being an integral part of my time here at Tufts. I will say, though, that amid campaigning school politicians, interest group bake sales and live drum performances, all of which were part of the rooftop festivities, I have never observed such diverse impromptu gatherings of students at this campus. There are very few moments, if any, in which I have seen such a clear example of the community experience that Tufts actively advertises on a campus that is, to me, noticeably segregated ( socially, rather than racially ) and more or less devoid of popular opportunities to build school spirit. I was proud looking over the turnout in years passed. I remember rethinking my cynicism as I happily joked with the police officers who calmly observed the festivities at a distance. But to have watched our school regress over my time here rather than move forward saddens me, and I am glad that I am not one of the incoming freshmen who toured this campus this past weekend and will find it, in many ways, a less tolerant and more hostile place than I have experienced.

NewsHawk: Jim Behr: 420 MAGAZINE
Source: Tufts Daily (MA Edu)
Copyright: 2011 Tufts Daily
Contact: letters@tuftsdaily.com
Website: Tufts Daily
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