Washington University Has Rules (Stupid Ones)


After an institution establishes itself, it's only a matter of time before it starts making some stupid rules. Consider America, if you will. I'm sure very few people would say that nothing is wrong with America's bureaucratic government agencies, and they all work there. How did America get so many stupid rules? Years ago, America was old enough that all the good, effective rules were already in place. So, the politicians feared for their careers and proceeded to act busy so they would get reelected. Acting busy involved making laws. But what laws were left? "Of course!" a senator resolved one morning in the shower. "Why didn't I see this before? Wire cutters are dangerous! Especially in Texas! I will pass a law outlawing wire cutters in Texas!" This is now an actual law.

Another very well-established institution is Washington University, which is located in Seattle. Wait, no it's not. A friend of mine just walked by, read my screen, and alerted me to my grave and serious blunder. Washington University is not located in Seattle, but rather in Washington, D.C. In any case, it more than meets all the qualifications of an established institution, including but not limited to: lots of excess rules.

One of the University's rules insists that a student cannot have any large box in their room unless it is an Original Box. By "Original Box" they mean "the box in which something you purchased came direct from the store." For example, if you have a Gateway computer, you would be allowed to keep the neat cow-patterned box. How do you suppose Washington University would go about enforcing this rule? "Excuse me, I'm with the Campus Police. I noticed yesterday as I was scaling the building and peeking in everyone's windows that you have a Box in your room. It may be Unoriginal. I'm afraid I'll have to step in for a while." It just plain isn't a practical rule.

Some students maintain that rules should be broken. These students spent their elementary school years learning to write. "I will not flick boogers at my classmates. I will not flick boogers at my classmates. I will not flick boogers at my classmates." A good rule is always made in such a way that one of these students can feel a twisted satisfaction at breaking it, especially if other students witness them. The Original Box Rule fails this test like a student without a pencil. Imagine a student smuggling a Counterfeit Original Box into his room. Feeling twistedly satisfied, he invites all his friends into his room, where the Box sits in a conspicuous position.

"Notice anything?" he asks with a conspiratorial smile.

After a lengthy, silent pause: "Did you get a haircut?" asks his best friend.

Washington University, which according to their course listings book is actually in St. Louis, is in an excellent position to play with rules, as they even have their own police department. They drive minivans. Not only can they enforce local rules specific to the University, they can choose not to enforce certain rules that state policeman would ordinarily enforce.

A prime example of Washington University's rule bending is the alcohol policy. The law in St. Louis states that a person under the age of twenty-one may not drink alcoholic beverages. This is known as underage drinking. Underage drinking is considered Very Bad, and state policemen come down hard on underage drinkers. Politicians get elected on a platform stating that they will come down hard on underage drinking. It is the law. But at Washington University, underage drinking is commonplace. I live in an all-freshman dorm, and several of my floor-mates have their fridges chock-full of beer, which they freely distribute. Drunken freshmen stagger through the halls singing heartfelt, touching ballads with frequency, almost regularity. I'm not sure just how they acquire (or, for that matter, put down) all that beer, but accomplishing the feat apparently isn't difficult. Any student of any age can get his or her hands on a cold one without making a snip at any red tape. Heck, a toddler could wander the campus sipping beer from his little spillproof glass and no one would mention anything, except possibly "What's a toddler doing on campus?" Someone may ask him for a sip.

At the beginning of the school year, a week-long event known as Orientation occurs. Orientation is a time to celebrate the customs and traditions of Eastern nations. No, bad joke. Orientation is actually a time to orient students, to help them get accustomed to and acquainted with the University. Every year during Orientation, the students and their Resident Advisors discuss the alcohol policy. Washington University is a wet campus, they tell us, and you may choose to drink or not to drink. A wet campus in a wet world. Makes sense. You're college students now, and you're going to have to start making your own decisions, they tell us. Whether or not to drink is one of those choices. It is the policy of Washington University to allow drinking, as long as the alcohol is in your room. We don't allow it in the common areas.

"We are freshmen," points out a student. "Why do we need to know this?"

Well, they tell us, you may be freshmen, but statistics show that a large percent of you will do it anyway, regardless of its legality.

"Isn't underage drinking against the law?" a student asks, though he knows the answer.

Well, they tell us, yes it is, but at Washington it isn't really enforced. We want the best for our students. We are concerned for the welfare of the individual. We will not call your parents if we find you drunk. In fact, nothing at all will happen to you, except you may receive a brochure filled with statistics that we know you will never read.

"What can I do if I am drunk, and I need help getting home?" a student asks.

Well, they tell us, just tell a policeman. He can help you.

"Yeah, right. I'm eighteen. I'll get busted."

No, the policeman is not going to "bust" you, they tell us. He is interested primarily in your well being. He will not call your parents.

Then the students learn about the Emergency Support Team (EST). This team exists primarily to help drunken people. They have a hotline number, which I am certain a drunk person would remember. Suppose you just got out from a party and you are completely smashed. Just call the easy-to-remember hotline, and friendly people will appear, clean up your vomit, help you to your room, give you a brochure, and above all they will not call your parents! I would tell you their hotline number, but I forgot.

You may be wondering, "How does the alcohol policy pass the rule-breaker's test?" Sadly, worse than the Original Box rule. For one thing, how exactly would one go about breaking the alcohol policy? By not drinking? I certainly don't feel a twisted satisfaction every time I refrain from drinking. By having alcohol in the common areas? I see empty beer cans there all the time, and I do not see consequences doled out on the perpetrators. Where is the danger in breaking a policy that isn't enforced? Furthermore, how is it even possible to break a rule that permits something illegal? The Original Box rule is almost starting to make sense.

Why is it that Washington University undermines state law? Just because "students would do it anyway?" Why is it that 20 freshmen were sent to the hospital after Washington's most recent party, WILD, due to alcohol-related illness or injury? This doesn't seem right. Statistics, like the ones in those brochures, prove over and over again that drinking is not good. It's not good for people's relationships, it's not good for people's livers, it's just not good for people. The entire point of one mandatory freshman meeting was to show that nearly all cases of rape are alcohol-related. But hey, students would do it anyway. We can't tell them to obey the law, and we certainly wouldn't want to call their parents. That's because we care. You're your own you. If you want to get drunk, just remember the EST number. And when the friendly EST people take you back to your room, ask them if they notice your Unoriginal Box.The Compendium

© 1998-2021 Zach Bardon
Last modified 7.19.2019
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