An Open Letter: Stir the Drink, Vanderbilt

Dear Hustler Staff, Vanderbilt students and their administrative overlords:

There’s another side to this alcohol and Greek Life debate.

All around Vanderbilt’s campus, students rant over lunch with friends, and behind the closed doors of their dorm rooms. They go on and on, expressing dissatisfaction with new University policies regulating alcohol consumption and Greek Life, worried the policies are suffocating a social scene that helps to make us not Duke, and not the Harvard of the South.

And yet, we are not heard. Why would we be? After all, five more freshmen found themselves in the emergency room this year than last. So the real concern – as the Hustler posited two Mondays ago – must be whether or not Vanderbilt students “have a drinking problem,” or if we are all “just pre-gaming the hospital.”

Over the last year, the administration has alchemized BYOB wristbands, benevolent University police officers and – incredibly – beer pong into precious commodities. Never mind that for many, the most pressing question has become whether hospital waiting rooms will soon become more reliably entertaining than Vanderbilt fraternity parties; our student media – and the administration they are tasked with covering – feels the need to explore the possibility that we’re all really just a bunch of immature drunkards incapable of carrying ourselves responsibly.

Sure, Vanderbilt’s traditionally top-notch social scene, facilitated largely by alcohol consumption and almost entirely through Greek Life, is this school’s true strength and cash cow, as well as what differentiates it from the Ivies many of us turned down.

But because, as the Hustler reported, an innocent little freshman at a big, scary fraternity party accidently chugged a Natty Light mixed with dip spit, got sick and passed out on alumni lawn – yes, this actually happened, and yes, I laughed too – drinking must be evil, and fraternities even more so.

Because that same freshman wasn’t politely asked to please stop puking on our chapter room floor, and was instead “physically thrown out of the party,” (gasp!) the brothers and sisters of Greek Life must be the villains here – rather than the victims we actually are.

There aren’t many outside of Kirkland, let alone on Kensington, who are asking the questions the Hustler posed. There are even fewer who believe that the administration is anything but misguided in their continued assault on alcohol consumption and Greek Life. Vanderbilt never misses an opportunity to tout itself as a top educator of young minds, or its newest bunch of saps as the best, brightest – and you better believe it! – most beautiful group of students in school history. But, if we’re all so prodigious, why is our frustration neglected? Why is the unpopular argument treated as the righteous one? Why is the one thing – other than a degree – that interests more than 40 percent of us (as well as the one thing that motivates freshmen to slog through months of rush and pledging) marginalized?

Why does Vanderbilt seem so eager to abandon half of what makes it whole, as well as a significant part of what made it the school we all chose over so many others?

As far as we’re concerned – and maybe this makes us naïve – any institution asking its members to fork over $60,000 annually (and quite a few more shekels in Greek Life dues) should give a damn what the willful saps think of what they’re paying for.

And right now, we’re unhappy. We wonder why Vanderbilt seems intent on moving the party to the pregame. Our frustration mounts when we hear university administrators say things like, “The pre-gaming issue must be and will be addressed.” Pretty soon, we think, there might not be any party at all.

We find ourselves perplexed why, all of a sudden, these same administrators (as well as a stable of rookie Vanderbilt police officers) seem like they’re out to get us.

We can’t understand why the status quo from a few years back – 17th in the nation academically, first in Greek Life – required tinkering, or how a student body once almost uniformly content became anything but.

We’re also increasingly under the impression that this University is much more concerned with the bottom line than the undergraduate experience. And we believe that a lot of what makes Vanderbilt great is being pushed aside, only so the school can remain not sued, and off the front page of the New York Times.

Ultimately, we wonder if our opinion really does count. We’re already here, after all. The most recent tuition payments have already been made, and – no matter how much dissatisfaction swells – the next ones will be too. So, it doesn’t much matter if we’re upset. It doesn’t much matter if an administrative tsunami of reform and regulation has receded with much of what we know and love about our school in tow, or if it will eventually return to wreak even more destruction.

Because, in the end, there will always be countless others eager to buy what Vanderbilt is selling, a never-ending line of saps happy to help the university creep up the rankings and rake in the dough.

Still, we continue to worry that, even as our school improves on paper, it threatens to become something much less in reality. 

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