Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Great cartoon.

I believe a protest is planned for tomorrow. Here's what I wrote to students who were commenting on Fountain Day's cancellation in our online discussion forum for class:

Earlier today I received a follow up email from the provost, asking faculty to dialogue with students if the issue of canceling Fountain Day came up, so here goes.

I can understand the disappointment of students over this, especially among seniors for whom this would have been the last Fountain Day (although I understand that it will be the last for a while anyway, since the large fountain is going to be renovated for the next few years). I can also understand, after the very severe winter we've had this year, that Fountain Day may have been more anticipated than usual.

I have to do full disclosure a this point, however, and tell you that I have never been a fan of Fountain Day. Not because I am shocked by the antics of students (I am not), not because I am "square" (most definitely not, quite the opposite, in fact), and not because I always promote the "company line" of administrators (I certainly don't).

But I do remember it from '04, the last time it was held on a weekday, in the year when UA was designated #1 Party School by Princeton Review. It was a fiasco, almost on the level of Kegs and Eggs, and resulted in very bad publicity, injuries, and hospital visits. There was no point in holding class, it was so noisy and chaotic and everyone skipped anyway.

I have never attended it on a weekend, but my sense is that it has calmed down somewhat.

My understanding from the provost's email is that the cancellation is not intended as punishment for the majority of students who did not participate in Kegs and Eggs at all, nor for most of the participants who were bystanders and did not smash cars or televisions or throw litter and mouth of to cops, and not even for the jerks who did commit vandalism and get arrested.

It is intended to send a message that the university takes responsibility for what happened, even if it was off campus and attended by some who were not UA students (although I think we all know that many were UA folks), and it is also to avoid additional bad press. Fountain Day this year would be covered even more extensively than it has in the past, with the media and onlookers documenting and widely publicizing every single offense. That's the last thing UA needs right now.

While it is true that I thought the reaction of some to Kegs and Eggs was overblown and hysterical (figuring this too shall pass, in terms of the negative PR), the provost's email is quite persuasive:

"It is important for all of us to be aware that since March 12, the University has received an overwhelming number of e-mails and phone calls from individuals including alumni, community members, parents, prospective employers and admissions recruiters. Unfortunately, there is a general misperception that UAlbany students indulge in excessive alcohol consumption and are not responsible citizens. While we may know this is not the case, Fountain Day places the University at risk of feeding this misperception because of the contingent of students who use the day as an excuse to engage in irresponsible behavior. This behavior compromises everyone's safety, tarnishes our reputation and diminishes the value of a UAlbany degree." 

It will be interesting to see how many protest. I won't be on campus tomorrow, so keep me posted. Considering a war in Libya, a tragedy of massive proportions in Japan, and looming State budget cuts that will undoubtedly impact the university, it is important to put things in perspective. What I mean is there are many worse things in life than Fountain Day being canceled.

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