“Wallternatives” keep the party going

Photo courtesy of Stefan Drakulich
Photo courtesy of Stefan Drakulich

Due to the lack of police personnel on campus throughout this fall semester, Walls have been in peril – and several have been forced to either reschedule or give up their party. Since the first couple problematic weekends, however, RAs have begun to co-sponsor Walls to keep the party alive. So far, the “Wallternatives” have been a successful route students have been able to use to supersede the police personnel problem, but with the search for the right candidates for the unique position of policing New College – and the extensive training period – this might be the student body’s only solution for keeping the weekly party going for the rest of the academic year.

Walls require two police officers on duty throughout its duration – a rule implemented after an incident in 2008 – which has proven to be quite a problematic rule for the parties this year, as the NCPD has been two police officers under their standard of thirteen since August of this fall semester. While options were presented to students in order to keep their Walls running – including 1) working with Student Affairs to make their Wall a “collaborative/partnered event” an even two weeks before the party to ensure it being substance free, 2) have an RA co-sponsor their now “Wallternative” that must be substance free, or 3) having to sit down with a member of the NCSA cabinet in order to reassign Wall funding, or reschedule it outright.

There is a clear administrative desire for substance-free Walls, as the only two immediately viable options require that status, in an effort to “mitigate stress on police.” The first few “Wallternatives” have gone off successfully, without issue or injury, but it will be up to the already-overworked RAs to maintain the party tradition that keeps the honor college’s perpetually stressed student body entertained.

“We are currently hiring for a few positions that would put us back to a functional minimum for safety, but once they are hired it will take 8-16 weeks before the officer can be on their own,” Assistant Director of Student Engagement Tara Centeno wrote in an email. “I don’t know if we will have that level by second semester but everyone is working towards getting this taken care of as soon as possible.

“I think these alternatives have been a way to still provide students with the opportunity to have things going on, but ultimately to operate at the level we all want to be at – we need more police staff.”

Second-year B-Dorm RA Araya Barnes co-sponsored the Space Whale Wall on Nov. 12, which went without a hitch – as most walls do. While the substance-free requirement might provide some sort of peace of mind for those concerned, the lack of capability to prevent all substance use and the often-unproblematic nature of Walls leads to the question of why it is such a strict and inescapable factor among the only options presented to students.

“We need to make it substance free so that we can have funding and such for things to happen,” they said. “And although my personal opinion on that matter is that it is kind of silly, I understand the necessity of it, and I think it is a very interesting loophole that honestly I’m grateful for [because of her desire to throw RA events].”

There might not be a unanimous stance on the matter of the substance-free requirement, but there is something that can be unanimously agreed upon: at least there are walls again. The long-standing tradition is an essential part of campus social climate and stress relief, an opportunity to ignore a few responsibilities and just enjoy yourself and your friends. While the current alternate route might not be entirely perfect, the simple fact that music is blasting and people are dancing is comforting to many.

“I feel like this might be a good way to bridge the gap – I think it is a little misguided for a start, but it’s something… It’s better than ‘OK, Walls are done kids, no more of that!’” Barnes said. “I feel as though the idea of even cancelling Walls is kind of dangerous, because – let’s be real – people need to have some way to blow off steam here.”

With the difficulties in keeping Walls running this semester – and maybe even the switch from PCP to COUP – campus culture has been in an awkward state of transitional muddiness, ever challenged by a lack of funding, understaffing and bureaucratic hoops to jump through. Luckily for the students caught in this dysfunctional mess, Walls will continue to live on, thanks to the RA staff members willing to give up their small bit of personal time to keep the party pumping.

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