Writer Responds To Opinion Editor: ‘That Is Not Our UD’

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This is in response to the article written by our Opinion Editor titled “Deeply Disappointed”: Opinion Editor Responds To President Spina on March 28.

Will Landers
Contributing Writer

I love being part of the UD community, but sometimes, I feel like a foreigner around here. I am from the South — but I don’t have much of an accent — so, I had never seen enough snow to make an actual snowman before I came to UD. I also pronounce “caramel” the way God intended: with three syllables.

None of that really makes me feel excluded, though, and I have made my peace with the constant mispronunciation. But something else does make me feel out-of-place. It is that I don’t really disagree with President Spina or his criticism of the events of St. Patrick’s day, and it’s time I said something.

I’ll be honest; I’m not much of a party person, and the “traditional” St. Patrick’s day celebration is not really my thing. However, I have always been able to engage our campus community. I feel welcomed almost everywhere I go, and I never feel limited or excluded. I have even seen complete strangers help each other without a second thought. For most of my time here, I have known that when you are at UD, you are family. No other experience illustrates this better than what I saw on a walk outside of VWK last year.

It was an overcast Saturday in mid-spring, and the air was finally warming up. I was walking toward Marianist, when I saw a girl moving toward me. Something about this girl seemed strange. It was a cloudy day, but she was wearing sunglasses. She was also wearing a slack-jawed expression and stumbled so much that she nearly fell with each step forward. Most importantly, she was alone. This girl was in trouble, but help arrived in the nick of time. Just as I began to understand the situation, a group that had been walking nearby rushed toward the girl and escorted her to her dorm.

These people did not know the girl, and they never met again (as far as I am aware). Yet they banded together in that moment to protect a vulnerable fellow student. Ever since then, this image has defined the way that I think about community. I figured that neighbors would help each other out, no matter what. That was my UD.

When I read Spina’s email, I was as shocked as anybody else. I, too, asked where the community had gone. I, too, took the criticism personally and wondered why the president was disappointed in my fellow students. I thought that the day’s celebrations could not have possibly gone so poorly that police had to be withdrawn for their own safety. Surely, this was some kind of knee-jerk reaction. After all, aren’t the students on Lowes Street the same students that would go out of their way to help a stranger in their midst? Isn’t this our UD?

My questions came to the forefront when I attended the SGA public meeting the next day. Alongside Spina and vice president Bill Fisher, an exasperated dean of students Christine Schramm shared an image that initially made no sense. The picture was grainy and blurred, but I could make out the outlines of several police officers, a crowd and two rows of houses. Lowes Street. Schramm told a story about this picture, and this story changed the way that I think about the events of St. Patrick’s day. It went something like this:

Lowes street was crowded, and students were packed so tightly that no one could move between them. Then something went wrong. A girl passed out in the middle of the street, and no one could get to her. Even worse, none of her fellow students would help her. They even cursed and threw rocks at the first responders who tried to reach her. Eventually, the responders had to leave and come back with greater numbers. It was not enough for the police officers to make sure that this girl was safe; they had to cover each other. The police, Schramm concluded, would not have gone in if the students had done their part to help each other.

I could not believe my ears. I could only think back to that girl outside of VWK. Were these the same students who would help a stranger? To borrow from Peter Kolb’s article, were these the same students who were hugging campus police earlier in the day? Is this our UD?

I hope not, but I am not so sure anymore. As Kolb points out in his response, the people on Lowes during the worst of the day represent only a small minority of students. Yet no one, not a single person in the entire crowd, thought to help the vulnerable in their midst.

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I think that this is what Spina means when he says that what happened on March 17 is “unacceptable.” This was not just a bunch of students blowing off some steam.

It was not young, rebellious critical thinkers pushing the boundaries of what old people in suits think is wrong.

Instead, it was a complete personal failure of anyone to take responsibility for their neighbors. It was reckless, arrogant, and harmful to the trust that students enjoy toward each other here.

Some would paint an image of March 17 in rose-colored strokes and tell you that everything is fine — that this is what UD is all about. But they are wrong. That is not our UD, but the playground of a few hundred selfish fools.

We shouldn’t be angry at the University; we should be furious at the people who wouldn’t let the first responders help the passed-out girl.

We shouldn’t be sorry for Spina’s failure to go crowd surfing; we should be apologizing for our failure to look out for each other.

We are not kids anymore. We cannot act like destructive children and then pout when the administration puts us in time out.

Instead, we need hold ourselves personally responsible for the well-being of our neighbors. We
need to be open-minded to different perspectives on our “traditions.”

We need to understand when there is a problem, and that community means more than a few drinks. We need to do this so that no one feels like a stranger. So that the next time a member of our UD stumbles in the street, she gets home safely.

I also have a short message to Spina: Not all of us think that getting drunk for the hell of it is the greatest fun a student can have. Not all of us want to destroy other peoples’ stuff. Not all of us see you as the Big Bad Wolf. Not all of us are children. Some of us understand your criticism. Most of us would help a stranger in need. Those who disagree with us are loud, but we also have a voice. This is also our community.

Photo Taken By Christian Cubacub/Director of Digital Media