The administration at a university such as UD is forced to deal with sensitive, possibly controversial issues on a weekly, sometimes daily, basis. So, in the past, I have given them the benefit of the doubt when potentially dangerous situations are resolved with student citations.
However, the way in which the administration handled last weekend's Lowesfest, specifically the treatment of junior Christopher Herbert, was not only embarrassing to anyone else associated with the university, it was just plain wrong.
Normally, disciplinary actions do not start against a cited student until AFTER that student has done something wrong. In Mr. Herbert's case, he was informed 24 hours BEFORE Lowesfest that he would be held responsible for any damages resulting from the 'spring festival.' What evidence did the university have against Herbert? A post on his Facebook profile.
Oh, where to begin.
Perhaps the most disturbing part of this whole ordeal is that, while Mr. Herbert did advertise for a Lowesfest celebration, he was working side-by-side with, among others, the neighborhood fellows, people who are supposed to be liaisons between the university administration and the students who live in the Ghetto. When the administration decided to make Mr. Herbert their scapegoat, they undercut a significant effort going on between the fellows and the residents of Lowes Street to try and create a legal Lowesfest where campus officials would only need to be wary of unwanted guests.
Mr. Herbert and other residents of Lowes Street were under the impression that their efforts were sanctioned by UD. Flyers circulated by the fellows entitled 'Rules for Lowesfest' only solidified this belief. After all, the fellows are representatives of the university; why would a student think the administration would react so negatively to something supported by its own representatives?
While I feel participation by the fellows is a major issue here, I am not trying to laden them with any blame whatsoever. They were working positively with the students to try and create a safe, fun, legal celebration, a far better approach than the stubborn reactionary path chosen by the administration.
The other aspect of this situation that frightens me is the precedent it sets for future administration-student interactions, especially when Facebook is involved. In issue 35 of Flyer News, Debra Monk, Director of Community Standards and Civility at UD, commented on how the administration could use Facebook in disciplinary situations.
'We do not have staff members searching for violations and we do not encourage them to search for violations,' Monk said. She went on to say that information from Facebook has only been used by UD as corroborating evidence, and that violations have not stemmed solely from it.
I guess that sounds nice in hypothetical situations, but when it comes down to it and they're in a tight spot, the administration will use anything they can get their hands on to find someone to blame; at least that's the message students will probably get from this situation. Why should they believe anything the administration says about disciplinary proceedings from now on? Christopher Herbert believed it, and now he's facing fines upwards of $10,000.
The idea of citing students before they've actually done anything wrong is actually more horrifying than using Facebook to find violations. Is the university that desperate to find a scapegoat for something that hasn't even gone wrong yet that they will find anyone even whispering the word 'Lowesfest,' put all the blame on that person and completely rid themselves of any blame or responsibility? Is that the kind of justice and spirit of community UD has prided itself on for so long?
Blaming Christopher Herbert for Lowesfest is like blaming the weatherman every time someone slips in the snow, it serves no purpose other than giving the administration someone to make an example out of in hopes of scaring future generations of Ghetto-dwellers.
So I hope you got a good look at Lowesfest, UD. It might be the last one. How did Christopher Herbert enjoy the 'chaos' he was solely responsible for? He didn't. He wasn't on campus that weekend.