Indecent exposure erodes neighborhood relations

Alcohol is no excuse to tarnish the University’s reputation.

Allison Fingerett

You look like you could use a drink. Life sucks, am I right? Midterms, personal problems and impending snowfall are more than enough to make getting wasted sound like cozy respite. But donâÄôt let a good time go bad. Alcohol is a warm hug, not a superhero costume. Throwing empty beer cans in someoneâÄôs yard may not seem like much, but blatant disrespect for fellow human beings is the fundamental principle that guides such behaviors. Last weekâÄôs news was peppered with stories of alcohol-related vandalism, followed by an assurance that such incidents are being more closely monitored, and thus better controlled. The new stadium puts us under watchful eyes, but has proven to be just one of many excuses to drink âÄòtil we puke and piss off our neighbors. House parties get crazy. WeâÄôve all been to at least one. You donâÄôt get invited to a lot of wine and cheese soirees in college, but you do invent sports that make cheap beer more fun. ItâÄôs a rite of passage. You cram for a physics test, you nail a keg stand. Yin, yang. And thatâÄôs all well and good, you need to let loose. But some people use alcohol to lose not only their simple social inhibitions, but their sense of decency as well. Last weekend my cohorts and I spilled out into the night at bar close, and a friend of mine drunkenly approached a construction site. He began ripping wires from an exposed fuse box while flailing his arms and causing a scene. âÄúDude, youâÄôre hilarious!âÄù yelled a stumbling passerby. And then others gathered âÄòround and cheered while I covered my face and peeked through my fingers. Thoroughly buzzed though I was, I managed to wonder how funny the construction workers might find this come Monday morning. But if you try to butt in and say, âÄúGee willikers guys, thatâÄôs not very nice,âÄù in a situation like that, youâÄôll be met with resistance, to say the least. ThereâÄôs something about our generation, as University police Chief Greg Hestness told reporter Robert Downs in reference to recent riots, âÄúthis [behavior] is some aspect of the culture now.âÄù The University of Minnesota doesnâÄôt offer classes on how to be a decent human being because itâÄôs assumed youâÄôre pretty solid on that by now. Vandalism that occurs in neighborhoods around campus is not the work of University students alone, but the blurred lines of affiliation are not doing our school any favors. You never know, the woman you expose yourself to in the street may write legislation for community or University funding. You can drink until you forget that your actions affect others, but that doesnâÄôt make others any less affected. The behaviors mentioned in newspaper articles and e-mail alerts are the actions of few rather than many. Unfortunately, you still have to take off your shoes at the airport. And in that same vein, Spring Jam 2010 will have a zero tolerance policy for alcohol-related events and offenses. So thanks a lot, 500 people who couldnâÄôt hold their liquor and thought itâÄôd be totally cool to riot in the streets. Even if two bad apples started the whole thing, 498 more felt the need to fan the fire. âÄúItâÄôs important for all members of the University community to keep in mind that their conduct could have an impact on the entire institution,âÄù said University police Deputy Chief Charles Miner in a phone interview. For some people, rules are re-iterations of their personal values. For others, rules are the only things stopping them from active harm. If you belong to the latter group, take a moment to ponder the importance of your sober sensibilities. For you, alcohol is more of a get into jail free card. You plan the night, and booze is the magical ship you sail in on. Somehow, it became socially acceptable for some of us to carry out our wildest destructive dreams, so long as weâÄôre sufficiently hammered. Which is not to say that students (21 and over, eh) shouldnâÄôt be allowed to get drunk. Take away my vodka tonic at the end of a hard week, and I get cranky. But the learning youâÄôre supposed to do in college extends beyond the classroom. Self-control takes practice. Drunken shenanigans are nothing new. Our parentsâÄô generation rioted, fought and got wasted, too. But these days, a college degree is as much certification in hoop-jumping as it is in your field of study. And unlike our parents, the light at the end of our tunnel is obscured by massive debt and no guarantee of gainful employment. Hopelessness runs rampant, and is often misguided. Alcohol provides an outlet, but letâÄôs rise up and use our powers of intoxication toward spirited yet considerate dance parties instead of unapologetic debauchery. And letâÄôs ask our friends to do the same. We are a community of future professionals, and the decisions we make today are indicative of the ethics that will guide us when we one day rule the roost. At a Democratic National Committee fundraiser last week, President Barack Obama addressed a room of economic high rollers with a similar call to arms for human decency: âÄúWhen I hear stories about small businesses and medium-sized businesses not being able to get loans despite Wall Street being backed very profitably, that tells me that people arenâÄôt thinking about their obligations, our mutual obligations to each other, the fact that weâÄôre in this together.âÄù The âÄúcampus as communityâÄù rhetoric has merit. So perhaps itâÄôs time we demand respect from those who share our resources before the sanctity of weekend beer pong becomes tainted. Allison Fingerett welcomes comments at [email protected]