Could there be anything more fun than watching people try but fail to boss others around?
A great start, but it gets better.
What if the people who are trying but failing happen also to be notably smart people acting stupidly?
Definitely an improvement.
Now for the clincher.
What if the notably smart people who are trying but failing to boss people around are trying but failing to have any impact whatsoever on other people’s sex lives?
The notably smart people in question are muckety mucks or muckety muck wannabes at Dartmouth, Harvard and the University of Virginia. The Centers for Disease Control have launched an investigation into the cause of this epidemic of earnestness and zealousness.
Join me now for the “Tour de Stupidité.”
After (presumably) firing its history department and prohibiting all faculty members from watching the Ken Burns Prohibition documentary, Dartmouth has chosen to ban alcohol from its frozen New Hampshire campus, seemingly because alcohol is the cause of all sex and all sex is inflicted on unwilling women. The statistics department must also have been fired. And the biology department.
Founded in 1769, Dartmouth has an unblemished 246-year record of failing to make its students toe any line drawn in the snow. For the first 142 years, Dartmouth solved its behavior problem by means of a well-considered export strategy. Since there were no women at Dartmouth upon whom to inflict drunken sex, the randy gentlemen were exported to other more southerly universities. There, they wore dark green felt jackets with cream-colored leather sleeves to pillage and plunder.
In 1911, Dartmouth’s sexual mercantilists finally lost their decades-long battle with the free marketeers, and Dartmouth Winter Carnival was born. This permitted the importation of members of the heretofore-missing gender, which had the effect of somewhat reducing the impact of the previous export strategy. Aggregate pillaging and plundering remained unchanged but it was more widely distributed.
In 1972, female students joined the males at Dartmouth on a full-time basis and all hell broke loose. Whether this was occasioned by a change in sexual mores or daily male-female interaction, the minimal global warming impact on prevailing temperatures has not diminished student cuddling, and the administration has remained on the back foot in its sexual regulatory efforts.
Cynics (a.k.a. realists) observe that it is easier to ban alcohol than to ban fraternities because the brewers and vintners contribute less money to Dartmouth College than the fraternity alumni.
Booze goes. Frats stay. Watch for sex to remain unchanged.
Continuing our journey to the south, we fetch up in Cambridge, Massachusetts, home of Harvard University, where a generally distinguished 379-year history is marked repeated attempts to make rules about sex.
In the Attention-Getting Through Abject Stupidity category, Harvard achieves notice with a newly announced prohibition against professors having sex with students. The outright ban replaces a prior policy stating that such relationships were inappropriate.
The prohibition flies in the face of the views of the American Association of University Professors, which considers such relationships to be merely “fraught with the potential for exploitation.” AAUP goes easier on student boffing, presumably in an attempt to increase opportunities for great-thought-thinking by diminishing the need for professorial attention to tedious and time-wasting grading activities. (If sex is traded for A’s, there is little need to read the wretched papers.)
Harvard’s new policy is the work of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences Committee on Sexual Misconduct Policy and Procedures, which presumably involves a smaller number of people — albeit a greater number of lawyers — than the entire Faculty of Arts and Sciences, as was the case when the sex issue was earlier addressed in the 1960’s.
In those gentler times, the entire faculty was called upon to determine what sexual activities were permissible in the Harvard Yard. Clever intellects that were, the faculty members began at both ends of the sexual spectrum, leaving the more difficult decisions to the end of the discussion. After giving a thumbs-up to handholding and kissing (and the requisite thumbs down to “going all the way”), the discussion turned to “head in lap.” The meeting ended in chaos when a tenured faculty member shouted from the audience “face up or face down.”
University of Virginia
Our final stop in the Tour de Stupidité is Charlottesville, home of “Mr. Jefferson’s University.”
Southern traditions abound in Charlottesville and these include fraternities, sororities, an honor code, quite a splendid lawn, some nice columns and flaming mattresses known to take flight from dormitory windows.
The University of Virginia, and particularly its fraternities, experienced a spot of bother last fall when a story appeared in Rolling Stone detailing an alleged date rape that seems not actually to have occurred. It is now widely known that the occurrence or nonoccurrence of a date rape has no bearing whatever on dudgeon levels or administration overreaction.
Fraternities were closed, lawyers arrived, the Rolling Stone story unwound and the backpedaling began. This served only to keep the university itself out of the current controversy involving a splendid tradition known as “bid night.”
Apparently, bid night is the time when invitations to join fraternities and sororities are accepted, but they occur separately. For the girls, there is much running about in gleeful groups, balloon carrying, matching clothes wearing and general female bonding. None of these are violations of the honor code.
For the boys, however, the festivities include adult beverages, coed activities and far more opportunities for honor code violation.
Still licking its wounds from the Rolling Stone incident, the University abdicated on meddling with the boys’ version of bid night, leaving the coveted alcohol plus sex regulatory field wide open to the national offices of the 16 U. Va. sororities and the National PanHellenic Center, representing 26 college sororities nationwide.
In the belief that sanctimoniousness would surely smooth the way to unanimous acceptance of yet another fruitless attempt to regulate booze and sex among college students, the following statement was issued:
“While we value the input our chapter leaders have to offer on this important and ongoing dialogue, our members’ safety and well-being must remain our top priority. That is why we stand by the collective decision of our 16 International Presidents, which supports an existing [National PanHellenic Conference] policy that our organizations will not participate in men’s bid day activities on any campus. Per our members’ request, we will engage directly with our respective chapters to address their concerns and move forward from here.”
In other words, the girls had to stay home.
This did not go well. There was much discussion of empowerment and objectifying, but one student summarized the general female anger by asking, “what is some 50-year-old from Indianapolis doing making decisions for us?”
How Do You Actually Cause This Much Stupidity?
Remember the throwaway line about the Centers for Disease Control way up at the top of this story?
They found the cause of all this silliness: your very own federal government.
Showing exemplary confidence in local courts and police forces, Title IX, the federal law prohibiting sex discrimination in education, appears to require universities that have any interest in receiving federal funds to have both police forces and judicial systems parallel to — but not the same as – the state and local equivalents. What could go wrong?
Why not let the universities tell their students to follow state laws on drinking and boffing or suffer the consequences just like the grownups they want to be?
Then there is the drinking age itself which has done more to lubricate campaign war chests than to de-lubricate 18-to-21-year-olds.
Here is the view of Barrett Seaman, author of “Binge: What Your College Student Won’t Tell You,”
“One of the 12 schools I focused on in Binge was McGill in Montreal, where the drinking age is 18. I chose it because it is academically comparable to the American colleges and universities I covered and also, in any given year, has about 2,000 Americans enrolled as undergraduates. In the two chapters that deal with drinking, I spent some time on the dramatic differences in behavior between the Americans at McGill, who could drink legally, and their American counterparts, who typically drank to excess whenever the opportunity was afforded them. In many ways, McGill provided the proof of my theory that 21 was contributing to the dangerous drinking habits at American colleges and universities and doing nothing to discourage drinking, which was the law’s intent.”
Thoughtful Wall Street experts are holding their long positions on collegiate drinking and sex while increasing short positions on government and university good sense.