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Editorial: Colleges must address unruly culture

Editorial: Colleges must address unruly culture

Administrators must get control of bad behavior on their campuses

The cancellation of the traditional Moorebid Ball at Skidmore College earlier this month due to a history of excessive drinking and unruly behavior indicates that Skidmore has bigger underlying problems to address than its inability to control one event.

The college wisely called off the annual October event this year to spare itself the trouble of dealing with the craziness of the night. Last year, about 1,000 students, largely underclassmen, went on a drunken rampage that led to destruction of campus property, assaults, injuries, and even some students being hospitalized with alcohol poisoning.

College administrators and student leaders, to their credit, did what they could to head off any problems at the time. Those steps included holding the event at an appropriately sized venue, increasing campus security, hiring an outside security company to provide additional help, and offering discounted tickets to those who attended an alcohol awareness program prior to the ball.

Ultimately, though, all of that wasn't enough. So funding for the event was pulled and it was cancelled.

But even though it dodged a bullet this year, Skidmore still has a problem on its hands, one that's not unique to the Saratoga Springs college.

An event featuring 1,000 people shouldn't turn into a drunken riot. That's not really a lot of people, when you consider that concert at SPAC can draw 20,000 or more and that high school football games and local festivals routinely draw hundreds of people without incident.

The problem is the mentality on college campuses which dictates that the rules of society can be tossed out the window when mom and dad drop off your stuff in front of your dorm.

Young adults, often away from home for the first time without parental supervision, cast off the shackles and explode with their new freedom. Binge drinking, sexual assault and general belligerence toward authority is part of the culture in today's colleges. "Animal House" wasn't just a movie. It's reality.

No one wants to discourage kids from having fun at college. But the culture that prompted the cancellation of this annual tradition needs to be changed.

First, parents need to impart on their college-age children that freedom comes with responsibility and consequences.

Colleges need to crack down on the partying that routinely goes on under their noses. They need to stress to incoming students that abuses of the rules are not acceptable, and that the penalties for violating them will be severe.

They need to educate students through campus forums about what will and will not be tolerated. Look how sexual assaults on campus are now being addressed after decades of colleges looking the other way to protect their reputations. That same new attitude needs to be applied to this behavior.

The community, too, has some responsbility. How do all these freshmen, well under the legal drinking age, get enough alcohol to cause a disturbance? Where are the local police in enforcing laws prohibiting sales to minors? When these events happen, even on a campus, local governments and citizens need to step up and demand accountability.

After the infamous "kegs and eggs" melee in downtown Albany in 2011, police worked with local residents, SUNY Albany and businesses to nab those responsible and crack down on alcohol abuses. They put more police into the off-campus housing areas. The college cancelled events, rescheduled Spring Break and took other steps to discourage similiar behavior. They haven't eliminated their problems, but they've gotten a handle on them.

Many laugh off this kind of craziness as "typical college behavior." But the problem has been getting worse and is now clearly out of hand.

Shutting down a big, traditional event sends a strong message that even good times and freedom come with limits.

How the college acts next will send an even stronger message.

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