Vandalism happens on college campuses. Windows shatter, lights break, and graffiti defaces. The phenomena is universal. While these relatively minor crimes certainly happen at Carleton, one can’t help but wonder about the psyche of normally respectful, responsible, socially active students. What leads thoughtful students to commit such crimes? Clearly, alcohol is not solely responsible.
Weekend parties in recent terms have led to an increase in puzzling vandalism. Despite the relatively minor damages of these crimes, our community needs to reflect on the implications of these behaviors on our campus climate overall. Because of the lack of visible consequences for these crimes, there is a general perception among students that vandalism and destructive behavior goes unpunished. Broken windows are replaced the next day, lights are fixed, and graffiti is painted over. For the college, accountability is secondary to providing the rest of the community with hospitable living situations. The implications of the lack of accountability extend far beyond damaged property.
This term a committee of students, staff and faculty has formed to review Carleton’s sexual misconduct policy. A large concern, is the sadly frequent reports of inappropriate sexual physical contact and interactions at late-night social gatherings. One can’t help but recognize parallels in the lack of inhibitions that lead students to punching out windows and making unwelcome sexual advances. By not holding individuals accountable for minor offenses, Carleton has created a community where students implicitly recognize that late-night misadventures will be forgiven and mended by sunrise.
As we review our sexual misconduct policy, it is important to consider the social environment where these offenses occur. If students are not held liable for small offenses like vandalism, it creates the implicit perception on campus that individuals can get away with far more. The college should not have to restrict our social freedom further, but an important step in reducing inappropriate sexual conduct is increasing student respect for our community and each other. As students, we need to hold ourselves to a higher standard.