Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Free the Colfax 37!

First of all, I was just checking out the Dome cam and it is an absolutely gorgeous day on campus, so I captured the picture and posted it here for the benefit of those of you who live in Northern Nevada and only read OC Domer at night. Looks like they took the scaffolding down off the Basilica.

I wrote ten days ago about the ridiculous police raid of an off-campus party resulting in the arrest (as reported at the time) of 37 Notre Dame students for underage drinking. Subsequent reporting has revealed that the raid was even more pointless than I first thought. It turns out that there were no neighbor complaints that brought SUDS Task Force to bear. What really happened was that the task force was all geared up on a Saturday night to raid local bars and restaurants who were serving alcohol to minors. Unfortunately, no bars and restaurants were found to be doing so! There was nobody to raid! What to do then with all these law enforcement officers undoubtedly clocking overtime on a Saturday night? Send them home? That would clearly be a waste.

Instead, officers started trolling the residential areas near the Notre Dame campus until one of the officers spotted "signs of underage drinking" at one house. Apparently the officer saw a lot of people, some beer bottles and empty cups. What he saw was a party. How he made the logical leap from "a party" to "signs of underage drinking" isn't entirely clear. At any rate the task force was called in, the students were terrorized, and the rest of the story is still to be written.

That raid set off a discussion throughout the on-line community of how the University has gotten to the point where any alcohol consumption in connection with game day festivities at Notre Dame is seen, and dealt with, as an imminent threat to the health and safety of the public. Rather than focusing on the small number of alcohol abusers who are in fact posing a public nuisance, the University is treating all alcohol as a public nuisance and all who are drinking as criminals (or at the very least suspects). Many alumni, myself included, are asking what has wrought this change? What happened to the University I attended? What happened to the fellowship and the camaraderie that the student body used to derive from having a greasy burger and a cheap beer at their dorm tailgater before the game? You can deride it, you can discount it if you want, but that was an important part of what made Notre Dame special.

I hope that the University administration is using these recent incidents as a jumping off point to seriously reconsider a set of policies that have gone off the tracks. "Moderation in all things" is sound advice. Moderation in alcohol usage, and moderation in the alcohol enforcement policy. I also hope that organizations like the Notre Dame Alumni Association, the Sorin Society, and the Notre Dame Clubs around the country will engage the Administration in shaping a policy that preserves the traditional homecoming atmosphere of game day at Notre Dame, while dealing appropriately with those who behave irresponsibly.

As a contribution to that discussion I am providing links to two excellent blog posts that came onto my radar today (thanks to Google alerts!) and that responsibly address these issues.

The first concerns the critical importance of common sense and discretion in those who enforce the law.

The second represents a thoughtful example of how one might respectfully engage the University on these topics.

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