BY NICOLE POTTINGER – STAFF WRITER
Early this semester, seniors received an email outlining the new policy enacted by the Student Life Office (SLO) regarding Senior Week guests. According to the new policy, no underclassmen will be allowed on campus during Senior Week. This differs from the old policy, which states that each senior is allowed one underclassman guest to stay, who must pay a fee of $100. This email was met with angry responses from the senior class, including a Facebook page that was started within 12 hours of receiving the email. This page, which was initially a Closed/Secret group, was used to brainstorm ways to get the policy to be changed. Shortly after, underclassmen were allowed into the group to show their support for seniors and offer any additional ideas.
Soon, a petition was sent around the senior class in order to rally support for a conversation with the SLO about a change in policy that was more conducive to underclassmen guests. While many signed, this did not change the opinions of the SLO staff who had changed the policy. Due to a lack of responses, some students offered more drastic measures as a way of retaliating, which included using Dessert with the Roushes, one of the senior class’s main events, as a platform for their cause. Another suggestion was even more extreme: refusal to donate money now and as alumni of Centre College.
Rather than endorse any retaliation method, senior Caroline Anderegg decided it would be beneficial to meet with some of the members of the SLO staff in order to open a dialogue between the administration and the students. Anderegg and a small group of students organized an open-door meeting for the entire campus to come together to brainstorm ideas to take to the administration. This meeting brought about several ideas, which were taken to the SLO the following day.
On March 5, Anderegg and four other students (including president of the Student Government Association Thomas Becker) sat down with members of the SLO in order to discuss the current state of the Senior Week policy. The meeting lasted approximately an hour and a half. “We expressed concerns about how we really wanted to talk about this. The main overriding concern was that no students were a part of the conversation, which is contrary to how we are taught to behave [at Centre],” Anderegg said.
Anderegg argued that the SLO was using Senior Week as “a tool to change the drinking culture at Centre.”
“They talked about how over the last four years there has been a 20 percent increase in alcohol citations. There is more of an underlying deeper concern with how people drink at Centre and how volatile and dangerous the culture has become,” Anderegg said.
However, this does not mean that she completely agreed with their argument. Two major counter-arguments were brought up: students have always drank this much, but a stronger drinking policy and Department of Public Safety involvement was the cause of this 20 percent increase, which equates to approximately 7 alcohol-related citations issued per week. The second argument was that alcohol citations have increased, but it is unsure if this is due to the growth of Centre’s overall population.
As a result of this meeting, the SLO agreed to re-open the discussion regarding Senior Week given the student body is able to decrease the percentage of citations given by 20 percent over the course of one month. Anderegg stressed the importance of community accountability, as opposed to personal accountability.
“The reason we think the Senior Week policy has failed in the past is because it relies on personal accountability rather than peer-to peer accountability, which seems to be more effective. When you live on a hall and you have a tight-knit community, if something gets damaged or vandalized, you make the whole hall pay for it which makes them more responsible and accountable for other’s actions,” Anderegg said.
“The next step is to let the student body know that this is what has to happen in order for this issue to come back to the table. [The administration] needs to see that we are invested in making some kind of change. One step at a time is a very tangible and quantifiable goal.”
Director of Campus Activities Kendrick Durham viewed the meeting in a mostly neutral light. “The seniors asked for clarification on the policy and how the decision came about, and we provided a frame of reference. A robust conversation was had regarding a few ideas to allow guests, but ultimately no changes were made [to the policy],” Durham said.
Regarding how the senior class went about organizing themselves in order to refute this policy decision, Durham said that most of the dialogue took place among the students, as opposed to with the SLO staff, where discussions could take place. Consequently, he believes there is no real “correct” way to go about a task such as this one. He was not surprised by the seniors’ reactions because of the contentious nature of this issue.
“We told the seniors at the meeting that we are still open to suggestions, but we have been reviewing and scrutinizing the Senior Week policy for four years, so the bar for substantive proposals is pretty high,” Durham said.
Not every senior is particularly concerned about this change in policy. Senior Katie Thompson was not aware of the Senior Week Facebook group, and has little real concern regarding the decision made.
“I think that it is important to discuss it, but at the same time, I understand the reasoning behind it. I think that it’s unfortunate that I won’t be able to spend those last few days with the friends I’ve made who aren’t seniors, but at the same time I understand and recognize that it is a privilege for seniors to be able to stay for those few extra days,” Thompson said.
As far as trying to put the issue back on the table through a decrease in citations, Thompson agreed with meeting the challenge to improve. “I personally don’t want to spend my last few days at Centre with a trashed campus. As students, we have a responsibility to respect our campus, and if we are able to do that, the discussion should be opened,” Thompson said.
For now, it is up to the student body to lower the rate of citations over the coming month in order to continue discussing any policy change regarding Senior Week. It is uncertain how DPS is going to monitor student activity in order to re-open the discussion regarding Senior Week. Without a formal announcement, students must rely on word of mouth to spread the information regarding this decision.