April 29th 2008 A Letter to BSG

Below is the text of an email I sent to the BSG presidents in response to this Facebook group:

Dear Mr. Kastenbaum,

I logged into Facebook the other day and found I had an invitation to a group called "BSG: Data Collection "Bucknell Riot" Friday April 25, 2008". Intrigued, I clicked on the link to the group to find out what it was about, because, believe it or not, I had not yet heard of the incidents of Friday night.

The group was pretty sparse since it was newly-created, but it did provide a link to a YouTube video that claimed to show a riot; the group's description implied that there were great abuses by our local police force, so I clicked on the link to the video to watch. I expected to see students getting shot with rubber bullets or tear gas, or a student getting beat with a baton. At the very least, I expected to see someone getting Tased. In other words, I expected to see actual ABUSE.

You can probably understand my disappointment when I instead saw a video of a mob of students, in clear violation of both local ordinances and state liquor laws, being peacefully broken up and in some cases legally arrested by a combined local police force.

You can also understand my disappointment in seeing my student governing body ADVOCATING the idea that students have an inalienable right to do whatever they want downtown, and the police should just -- and pardon my language here -- fuck off.

As a senior, I've spent four years listening to BSG and other groups on campus complain about the "abuses" of the local police force. As the former Opinions editor for The Bucknellian, I spent numerous editorial board sessions listening to other editors complain about police arresting students for -- *gasp* -- DRINKING down town.

Let's get one thing straight: Contrary to popular belief, college students do NOT have an inalienable right to drink and party downtown -- and certainly not in the middle of a public street. College students under the age of 21 do not have a right to drink at all. These are the facts of life. If you do these things, you run the risk of getting caught and arrested. It's as simple as that. You may not like the laws, but you do not have a right to unilaterally refuse to abide by them. As a political official, you no doubt understand this concept.

To be fair, Harry, I can appreciate your position as a BSG representative: Like all politicians, you have a constituency to represent. It just so happens that your constituency mostly consists of students who just want to get as drunk as possible, anywhere they please, on Friday and Saturday nights.

But let me remind you, Harry, of two other points about your duty as a student representative: One, you also represent more moderately-minded students who drink responsibly, and are sick of seeing their irresponsible peers giving their university a bad name; and two, sometimes being a politician means doing the RIGHT thing, even if it isn't the POPULAR thing. This was once a major tenet of politics that seems to have been lost in the age of mass media -- such as YouTube, which allows one to get any sensationalized message broadcast to a large number of people.

I am distressed because the recent BSG actions against the Lewisburg Police Department, including the creation of euphemistically-named "Incident Report Forms" and this BSG group, are not only rather trivial, but also represent a refusal by the BSG to acknowledge the fact that students are largely responsible for painting themselves in the negative light seen by the local populace. I'm not only a Bucknell student, but a resident of Lewisburg for almost 16 years. In fact, when I first moved here, I lived in the little white stucco house on the corner of South 7th Street and St. George, and got to see firsthand just how immature and irresponsible Bucknell students are when they get a little beer in their bellies.

BSG, and other Bucknell student groups, often argue that the actions of the local police force in regards to student partying do nothing to protect the safety of students. This may be true, but I remind BSG that the police is not around simply to protect Bucknell students; they are there to protect the TOWN, too. In fact, since many Bucknell students don't even pay local taxes, the police are more beholden to the citizens who DO. As a resident of Lewisburg, I cannot count the number of times I was harassed by students, or the times that my parents had their cars or fences or house kicked or otherwise damaged by unruly, drunk Bucknellians.

I think it's unfair and irresponsible to characterize the local police as "oppressive" without doing anything to encourage Bucknell students to be more responsible with their drinking and partying. Given the high incidents of sexual assault on campus, as well as drunk driving (let's be honest -- we all know a lot of Bucknell students drive drunk, even if they don't get caught), students could clearly do more to take alcohol consumption responsibly.

How great would a program be that encouraged maturity and moderation in drinking and partying, while also encouraging restraint by the police force -- instead of merely criticizing the actions of the police without encouraging a reciprocal effort by students?

Or, instead of spending time and resources to create a video which "shows" abuses by the police while justifying the clearly illegal actions of students, why doesn't BSG create an educational program to deal with problems of sexual assault or drunk driving?

As a student, I'm writing to encourage BSG to drop this nonsense with defaming the local police force and standing up for the rights of students to get sloppily drunk. As a graduating senior, I don't want future employers to surf the Web and find out that my undergraduate institution is a haven for unruly, irresponsible drunks who have no respect for law. I want to be proud to be a Bucknellian -- and this Facebook group and YouTube video only serve to make me feel ashamed.