Occidental’s Noble Experiment

Ξ February 7th, 2010 | → 13 Comments | ∇ 90041, Oxy |

This post has been marinating for a while.   I want to strike a respectful tone and be mindful of those who have a different but legitimate perspective.  Still, I can’t help but feel a segment of our Northeast community is trying to have their cake and eat it too.  Here it is: Why would you move within blocks of a college, and then be upset that you have to deal with the antics of college students?

A recent Boulevard Sentinel article penned by Oxy neighbor and employee Mo Oxford got me thinking.  In the piece, Ms. Oxford recaps a somewhat accurate history of the last decade of living next to the Alpha Tau Omega fraternity house on Alumni Ave.  Some of her claims are exaggerated or loaded with sinister innuendo (the hazing death she mentions occurred because of a car accident with no alcohol involved), but generally, Ms. Oxford accurately recounts all the reasons people don’t like living next to fraternities: noise in the late hours, alcohol abuse, and pretty much the living conditions you would expect from a house full of 19 year-old boys.  Ms. Oxford is far from alone in her frustration with Oxy students.  A few months ago, a commenter to our site who identified himself only as “E” complained of drunk screaming in the wee hours, bemoaning a sense of entitlement, and calling Oxy students “the worst”.

So, to circle back on my original rhetorical question: “Why live next to a college if you don’t like college students?”  After all, wouldn’t Isla Vista just be a nice quiet seaside community if it wasn’t for UCSB?  Now if only I could stop with my sense of Oxy alumnus self-righteousness.  The problem with the behavior these neighbors are complaining about is that it’s a criminal nuisance. I don’t like graffiti, but am I not making the neighborhood better by calling 311 and having it painted out?  Similarly, are Ms. Oxford and “E” whiners for having run out of patience with underage drinking and behavior that prevents them from sleeping?

The problem with living near a college is that while the individual students grow up, (I’d like to believe I’m an example of this) the student body never does.  Your neighbors are doomed to be a constant cycle of 18 to 23 year-olds who are independent for the first time in their lives.  Still, living next to a college isn’t all bad.  Oxy has a beautiful campus that is open to the public, provides 1,800 customers for the local businesses we love so much, and brings some of the brightest minds in the nation to Eagle Rock. (I speak of the faculty; Oxy’s students are smart, but not that smart.)  Oxy has existed in our neighborhood for over 100 years and for better or for worse, it’s part of the community that isn’t going anywhere.

My solution then is that Oxy should liberalize their drinking policies.  Oxy parties are terrible.  In my time there, the school would typically buy one keg of beer for the entire student body, quarantine the drinkers in a roped-off pen, and generally, the alcohol was gone by 11.  It’s not responsible behavior, but students hell bent on drinking in a social environment would then move off campus.  The reality is that 18-23 year olds are going to drink, and the Oxyadministration has left students two options: 1. Engage in solitary drinking in a dorm room until Campus Safety arrives. 2. Go off campus and upset the neighbors.  Remember, the local bars are usually too expensive for college students and even worse, some require driving.

This isn’t news to the school’s administration.  Former interim college president Robert Skotheim acknowledged as much in publicly arguing for lowering the national drinking age. Don’t expect the school to assume the liability headache that would ensue from making drinking on campus more appealing to students however.  Oxy may present itself as being sympathetic to the neighbors’ complaints, but its alcohol policies are designed specifically to push students off campus to become the surrounding community’s problem.  Instead of vilifying students for behaving like students (albeit obnoxious ones), the community should look to the administration to assume its fair share of the responsibility to be a good neighbor.  For most us, this means an phone call to campus safety at (323) 259-2599; for Ms. Oxford, she can simply walk down the hall.


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