An ideological inconsistency

By Jack Eisenberg

I would like to preface my piece with this statement: I don’t know crap when it comes to college bureaucracies and institutions.

Good. Now let’s get started.

Macalester College’s website has a cute little link on its homepage directing anyone who clicks it to a list of college “guides,” publications assessing all that make up the educational institution and the student life. A few such publications include the Princeton Review, U.S. News and World Report, and Newsweek. Links to all of these respective sites are available through “www.macalester.edu,” indicating the school’s respect for these outside opinions.

Interestingly enough, one site, the Princeton Review, explicitly refers to Mac as a place for “Birkenstock-wearing, tree-hugging, clove-smoking vegetarians.” Now, I am pretty sure that the “clove” being smoked is actually a substance that starts with an “M” and ends in “arijuana.” Hmmm, what kind of message is Macalester trying to send to prospective students by having links to this site on its homepage? Are the rules pretty lax here?

Better yet, I distinctly remember when MCSG President Ben Johnson said in his speech the first day of orientation, to a packed auditorium of anxious freshmen and parents, that some students will spend the next four years breathing more through bongs than through their noses. C’mon Ben, what kind of school is this? I hope those are “clove” bongs. Maybe this really is a place for open-minded hippies.

Throw in the brilliant professors, enlightening classes, and of course, the unbelievably conscientious and intelligent student body, and Macalester comes off as an ideal environment in which any non-conformist individual can creatively assess and question the accepted practices of everyday life in a hostility-free community.

But wait. I left that institutionalized, mythologized behemoth known on the streets as “Rez Life,” the integral part of the school that just doesn’t quite fit, out of the equation.

Yes, Rez Life. I find it interesting how a group of students can pack the Chapel, listen to an ex-Black Panther tell us to fight “the system,” and then hide away in dorm rooms in fear of the RAs’ nightly rounds. Pitting students against students is not conducive to cooperation, and the current ideology emanating from the Rez is that the people in charge ought to be disciplinarians first and foremost, community leaders second. Don’t get me wrong, this is not a critique of the RAs themselves; from my personal experiences, I would say that they are funny, intelligent, globally conscious people like most everyone else on campus. Rather, this is a mere observation of the ideology propelling hostility and fear in the living quarters.

My point is this: Macalester gives the impression that it is a place where community, liberation, and out-of-the-box thinking prevail over conventional and oppressive measures common to the global community outside of the school. Why, then, does no one see anything wrong with the Rez Life people using the RAs like the Gestapo? (Maybe that one is a little exaggerated, but you get the point). I am aware of the safety and liability issues that must always be addressed, but students should not have to be afraid to notify an RA if their friend is sick with alcohol poisoning because he or she is afraid of getting written up. Just recently, Residential Life made the decision to randomize the times in which the RAs would patrol the halls. Maybe it would be more effective to put up signs everywhere that say: “Don’t fuck up because you never know where We are and when We will catch you. Oh, don’t question our authority either.”

The school should stop marketing itself as a place where conventionality and socially liberal actions are both accepted and expected if it maintains an institution explicitly undermining these very notions of lifestyle. Macalester, practice what you preach.