Stamping out chaos

I was an opinion columnist for University of Maryland’s student newspaper The Diamondback for three semesters before I graduated. The columns I wrote are still up on the web archive, but I’d rather not depend on The Diamondback to host them indefinitely. Thus, I have decided to repost them on this blog, not only to archive them in a place under my control, but also so you readers here can have an idea of my writing in college. Here is my fourteenth published opinion column, Stamping out chaos, originally published February 16, 2007.

Last Friday, the Black Student Union and Phi Beta Sigma tried to host an abomination of a party at Stamp Student Union. One person was arrested, another injured, a police officer was assaulted, fights broke out as admission was closed, the fire alarm was pulled and the whole travesty was finally canceled. The whole event just wasn’t planned or organized well at all, yielding an all-too-predictable result.

This was the sixth time so far this year that an event at the Student Union has fallen into disarray. This is far too common an occurrence. The rules need to be changed to foster a safer atmosphere. If a student group doesn’t have its act together, it should not be allowed to try and bungle its way through hosting an event. Its application for use of the Student Union should be swiftly denied.

The staff members in charge of the Student Union must be stricter in their application requirements. Student groups should be required to submit a detailed event plan showing that they have thought everything through and that they are thoroughly prepared. The No. 1 thing that could have prevented this embarrassment Friday night would have been preparation.

Student groups should be required to start selling tickets in advance, as is done for the Gemstone Formal. The negative response to shutting down admission due to overcapacity would then be reduced because everyone who really had their heart set on going would already have made it in because they purchased tickets in advance. Furthermore, the volume of ticket presales would give officials a good early estimate of how large the event will be and thus how many employees (and police officers) will need to be present.

Admittance of nonstudents to these events should be heavily curtailed. The students are the ones, after all, who are paying the exorbitant fees to keep the Student Union up and running, so they should be the ones who primarily benefit from its facilities. At the party Friday, a lot of the trouble seems to have been caused by nonstudent delinquents. Why should we even allow ourselves to get into this situation?

Events should be restricted to students only, or, at the group’s option, to a fixed-ratio admittance policy. For instance, every nonstudent who wanted to get in would have to be accompanied by a university ID-carrying student vouching for him or her. This way, friends visiting from other colleges would still be able to attend, but rowdy groups of nonstudent troublemakers would not.

Of course, these restrictions will only work if they are enforced. Which brings me to my last recommendation: Student groups must be held accountable for their events. If a group is found to be violating the admission rules – for instance, letting in people without checking for student IDs – it would lose its Student Union privileges for a set length of time. If, through a student group’s poor planning, major problems such as the ones Friday develop, then the consequences would be much more severe than those for merely failing to check IDs.

It is high time we realized we are students at the University System of Maryland’s flagship university. We deserve way better than what we’re currently getting. We deserve organization and planning that doesn’t make us look like a laughingstock. We deserve to have safety and public order on the campus at all times. We deserve our student fees to be used responsibly and not to be squandered away on poorly planned and poorly executed events. We already expect so much out of this institution. It’s time we started expecting more out of ourselves and our student groups as well.

Darla Bunting, president of the Black Student Union, posted an online comment in response to my column. It read:

I just would like to highlight that a reported five social had problems last semester. The BSU held two socials. Therefore, it is not solely an organizational issue. There were many factors that need to be taken into account before fingers are pointed because to be quite honest, there was wrong done on all parts, and for those important details to be neglected is a misrepresentation of what happened that night. I believe it is important to get a clear representation of events or any issue before one voices his/her opinions on it. Not finding out all of the facts or educating oneself on the issue before making an opinion is not being a part of the solution, it’s increasing the problem. Maybe you should think about joining the committee if you truly want to help.

Her short, dashed-off response was then eviscerated in a Letter to the Editor which was read by a lot more people (the print edition has a much larger circulation than the web edition, let alone the web comments). One step forward, three steps backwards for Darla Bunting.

Predictably (it’s not like us opinion columnists actually have much sway, after all!), the problems at Stamp Student Union continued, and the administration got so fed up with it that they prohibited any events lasting past midnight, and excluded non-students. It’s a shame. Had my advice been followed and the student groups properly regulated themselves, some of the events would still be going on now, rather than being shut down across the board.

Oh, and I do appreciate puns, so I did like the title of this column.

One Response to “Stamping out chaos”

  1. Says:

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