When fun becomes fined

It’s Philip von Hahn ’15 here, on behalf of Poker C. On the night of Friday, Oct. 17, about 30 to 40 of you came by my living room and kitchen for a ‘party,’ one which I did not in fact attend. I was in Boston this past weekend, for those who may be interested. I had a very nice time. Four of my roommates, all over 21, invited some of their friends over on Friday evening with my blessing. This group included neighbors, teammates and colleagues numbering about 20 people. Friends of friends were invited organically, and the gathering swelled to about 40, as any good party hosted by some decent guys is wont to do. My roommates had a nice time meeting students that they didn’t already know, happily hosting new faces that, frankly, it can be hard to get to know in the day-to-day press. In the interests of full disclosure, there was hard alcohol present, which we had bought weeks prior and stored in our freezer for personal consumption. There were also three 30s of beer which we had bought to share with our friends who were of age.

At about 10:30 p.m., relatively early even for Williams, two Campus Safety and Security officers arrived. Unfortunately they were not friends of friends, though surely good guys. I am told that things went quiet suddenly; a hush fell as the two officers stood, hands by their belts, near the front door. Nervous students edged towards the back door; everybody was leaving, because security had arrived, and their presence tends to feel threatening. My four friends, as well as two first-years who they hadn’t yet met (I still have yet to meet them, but certainly they would be welcome back under different auspices), were the only ones left in our living room: us for hosting, the frosh for drinking our tequila.

Though we technically had too many people in our house, that was the least of Security’s concern. Once we had explained that no hard alcohol had been provided, but rather rooted out of its hiding place, Security seemed more sympathetic to our (at this point) uncertain destiny. My friends were assured that though they would have to offer statements the next day, that would be the end of it. The amount of beer they had, we were told, complied with official limits for gatherings of that size (three 30s), and my friends had been remarkably co-operative and reasonable with the officers, as well as clearly responsible hosts. Three of them were JAs last year, after all.

After my friends gave their statements, only one was called in to talk to Director of Campus Safety and Security David Boyer. In this meeting my friend discovered that as a house we were going to be fined for “illegal partying.” Now, I don’t know what illegal partying is, but here is what it amounted to, according to an email from Director Boyer after the meeting: “The event had several infractions and violated both College policy and Massachusetts State Law. The violations include, hard alcohol, 90 beers (limit 79) and underage drinking/possession which are all finable offenses at $100.00 each. As agreed, you must now pay a minimum fine of $100.00. The reduced amount is based on you [sic] willingness to register future events and keep them in compliance at all times.”

Boyer gave us a few considerations for future events, which (in addition to registering parties) included having a “resident at the front door controlling access and trained server for alcohol” and having “private events by invite to avoid friends inviting friends.”

I don’t know about you, but I honestly can’t see myself registering an event every time I look to have some friends over. It is easy to place blame on one officer, one director or one dean, but I am not looking to do that. I am looking to open up a dialogue with Security, the Dean’s Office, students, staff and faculty about the structures that are in place and their effect on our weekends in this beautiful town. Why do we all get mixed messages from different members of Security? Why does it feel like we are targeted and hunted on weekends? Why is Security’s engagement with the student body so uncertain? It seems to me like these inconsistencies must have something to do with fundamental problems in school policy.

Boyer told us that we should have had “somebody at the door the whole time” to ensure that underage students could not come in to our house. Interestingly, another event (off-campus) this same weekend that had a “bouncer,” of sorts, caused much kerfuffle amidst students who found this a violation of an unwritten yet sacred policy of Williams’ social openness: Anyone is welcome because we all care about and are invested in one another. Something must be wrong if I am in trouble for not turning away fresh faces. Doesn’t that sound reasonable?

I don’t want to be fined for being nice, and I don’t think that policies in place that lead to this kind of outcome can or should be upheld. Students are at turns angry and scared and are being turned against one another, kind, hard-working officers are vilified, the administration is silent, and (the coup de grace for a financially-stretched student like me) we have been charged $100 for partying and told to be thankful for it.

With all this in mind, I invite students, faculty, staff and community members over to my house for a party which at this point I intend to register on Friday, Oct. 31. Wear a costume if you like, but please, bring an open mind. And a friend.

Philip von Hahn ’15 is a history major from Toronto, Canada. He lives in Poker Flats.

  • Ryan

    Dope kid. Dope ideas.

  • Ben

    He’s so hot right now