Editorial: “Don’t call, they’ll be fine”

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Two weeks ago, 56 Lehigh students were cited at an off-campus party. More than half of them were freshmen.

Those statistics might evoke a knee-jerk reaction. After all, parties happen every year without any serious problems.

“Make Lehigh great again,” and “Lehigh lives matter,” have become running jokes among cliques. This is supposed to be the best four years of your life, you think. Not every step we take should have us going to jail.

Who does someone with a badge think they are, telling you what you should and shouldn’t be allowed to do?

Those phrases are more disrespectful than they might seem. While students are out partying the night away, police officers are patrolling the streets to ensure our safety. 

When they talk about the problem with parties, they aren’t worried about how much we have to pay in fines. They’re worried about our lives.

Four near-fatal incidents last semester. One hundred and forty-four days since our Lehigh community was lucky enough to avoid a student death. Six days since the Lafayette community wasn’t.

We romanticize the idea of the college parties we always heard about growing up, but realistically, they aren’t representative of our drinking culture today.

Beer from our parents’ college years has turned into liquor and grain. People blow .2 or .3 as if it’s a badge of honor.

Going out to drink and socialize has turned into a game of, “How plastered can I get and still make it home?”

Maybe we weren’t prepared for this, but it doesn’t excuse students from a responsibility to their friends and peers. There’s a disconnect between our drinking habits and our humanity.

We have a problem with common decency.

Yes, the administration needs to improve our medical amnesty policy. Whether or not you get in trouble for helping someone who needs it is too vague.

Does that mean you should risk someone else’s life to avoid a citation? Absolutely not.

We see someone struggling down a flight of stairs, legs wobbly, eyes glassy — it’s an issue when we search for the quickest exit instead of acknowledging that something is very wrong.

There’s a good chance you’ve heard of someone having their own staircase moment. Maybe you were even there.

“I’ll be fine,” they say as they take their first two shots of the night. “We’ll only have two more,” you hear them say minutes later.

Rinse. Repeat.

Years later, while reminiscing with a group of friends, you remember that night. After a dramatic retelling of how many stairs they hit on the way down, you begin laughing.

But if someone were to listen closely enough, they would hear the laughter quickly fade. Familiar names come to mind — those whose stories had a different ending.

Timothy Piazza, Penn State.

McCrae Williams, Lafayette.

Unspeakable thoughts of what could have been.

These aren’t just names in a news article. Either one of them could be someone walking down Packer Avenue, sunglasses hiding the night they just woke up from.

A student waking up to realize they threw up on a friend during the night. A harmless visit to a friend’s school ending in a fight, an emergency room visit and scars from a drunkenly ripped-out IV. Parents frantically searching a city’s hospitals, unaware their child was undergoing a sexual abuse examination while blacked out.

These are real stories from Lehigh students. All are alive today because someone called. Because someone cared.

Penn State students have to deal with the alternative. Nobody called for help while Timothy Piazza sat on a tattered couch, clearly traumatized and injured, while he desperately attempted to get out of the house. Nobody called until he was face down at the bottom of a basement staircase.

The college experience of Lafayette students, particularly freshmen, is forever tainted. McCrae Williams will always be in the back of their, and our, minds — an unbreakable connection reminding us of our responsibility to keep each other safe.

Don’t let this happen to you. Don’t let this happen to others.

If you think a situation is wrong, call it like you see it, no matter what others think. Call the police. Call anyone.

Call, call, call, call, call.

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13 Comments

  1. This article fails to admit that the incredibly dumb laws of our parents generations have brought on this culture, has brought on the fine, court dates, and citations. My parents went to college when the drinking age was 18 and when police did search for grant funding to shut down parties. Getting cited can seriously jeopardize the future, and when college is so high stakes and so expensive, avoiding getting in trouble can be so important. Until the issues are addressed the problems will not go away, antagonizing students will not get us anywhere. Yes calling is so important, yes we need to care more as a community, but when Lehigh and Police shove us into the shadows, force us into basements off campus, force us to hide our activities like criminals, its ludicrous to expect it to be safe or devoid of risks.

    • Grow up! You act like drinking alcohol is essential to life! Stop blaming the past and help ensure a future! College isn’t a right it’s a privilege. There are plenty of ways to enjoy yourselves other than getting black out drunk! Majority of you won’t even “remember ” the FUN you had .

    • Robert Davenport on

      “…, but when Lehigh and Police shove us into the shadows, force us into basements off campus, force us to hide our activities like criminals, its ludicrous to expect it to be safe or devoid of risks.” If you need to hide your activities you need to be extra responsible so as not to get caught.

      • Lehigh Alumni 2002 on

        That logic is outrageous. Literally look at history every single time something is moved from being transparent to nontransparent it increases the risk and potential for dangerous outcomes. From financial derivatives in dark markets to Prohibition to outlawing prostitution (and countless others), all of these policies resulted in disastrous outcomes for people who mostly meant well. Same thing is happening to Lehigh now, innocent kids doing nothing more than drinking and having fun with friends are being thrown into the court system and paying thousands of dollars to the city of Bethlehem (which only even continues to exist because of Lehigh and Harrahs) for doing the same thing than a large majority of students are doing at every college in America other than BYU.

        • Totally agree with you. I also think part of the issue is Pennsylvania is a strict state when it comes to alcohol in the first place. I come from a state that is the opposite and is also one that has recently legalized marijuana recreationally. Both have proven to me that the best way to control these types of activities (which will continue regardless of the law) is to legalize and regulate. While i’m not exactly advocating for the state to lower the drinking age because I recognize it is very unlikely, I do think Lehigh’s administration could take this approach. Stop antagonizing a large portion of the student body, recognize that partying will never cease to exist at college, and start taking some proactive steps to regulate the social scene in a way that doesn’t force students to hide the activity to the point where students are afraid to call for help when someone is in serious danger. This all seems so straightforward to the students here, I’m really at a loss as the why the administration cannot figure this out.

    • So don’t binge-drink & you won’t have to worry about all that. You’re not ‘forced’ into the shadows, you choose to go there.

    • Whether you or I think that the legal age of consumption is too high when set at 21 as opposed to 18 is immaterial. Just as ignorance of the law is not a defense to criminal liability, neither is our disagreement with what the law is. Now, I understand that just because something is illegal doesn’t mean it won’t happen anyway, whether that’s marijuana use, speeding and rolling through stop signs, or drinking underage. But in all of those cases, when a person makes a conscious decision to smoke, speed, etc., he or she makes a knowing decision to break the law and must face the consequences that might follow. I disagree with your point that the Lehigh administration perpetuate a dangerous environment by forcing students into the shadows and basements. First, Lehigh cannot legally lower the on-campus drinking age to 18 by just not enforcing underage drinking laws. Second, Lehigh students sent four of their own to the hospital last year for high-risk drinking incidents and hundreds more for routine (for lack of a better word) intoxication. Students need to take responsibility and realize Lehigh staff are there to educate, deter, and help.

        • I’m not writing as Holly Taylor or Chris Mulvihill. I’m writing as someone with a legal degree. You know, the type of person you’ll have to call to fight your citation when you disregard my “insights.”

  2. Former Kappa Sigma on

    “Beer from our parents’ college years has turned into liquor and grain. People blow .2 or .3 as if it’s a badge of honor.

    Going out to drink and socialize has turned into a game of, “How plastered can I get and still make it home?””

    These statements are at best conjecture and embarrass me as a senior at this university. You suggest that Lehigh students are proud of being breath-a-lyzed and cited? Sounds like an outsiders’ perspective because anyone that knows this school and its culture knows that no one is impressed by someone else’s BAC. The only circumstance where students learn their BAC is if they are being cited, which not a single person would wear as a “badge of honor”. It seems unlikely that the entire campus bought their own breathalyzer so they could brag about how much they drink. No one cares. The person who gets cited is usually embarrassed and regretful. No one wants to make that phone call home.

    I’ve seen cops hand kids citations dozens of times in my four years here and usually the reaction from the student is regret or outrage in the many cases that the student was not deserving. When I was a freshman, cops cited a friend of mine because he was wearing something similar (with the american flag, not something rare) to someone they had seen publicly urinate earlier in the day. He was not guilty, I was with him and he barely even drank that day because he had been sick and wasn’t feeling up to it. Regardless, the police wrote him a citation and the administration’s policy of assuming guilt made it impossible for him to beat the citation because this isn’t a court of law, this is Lehigh and the administration can interpret the rules they wrote however they like. I know my peers have many similar stories.

    The school’s judicial system is more similar to that of a corrupt government like Venezuela than the United States when you consider the fact that the school can determine guilt without evidence on a “he said, she said” basis with its opaque “lehigh code of conduct” which is intentionally vague to limit students’ abilities to defend themselves and give the “Student Conduct and Community Expectations” office unlimited power to rule how they see fit. How are Holly Taylor and Christopher Mulvihill expected to be the judge, jury, and executioner on student conduct from their offices in Williams hall when they don’t truly understand the culture of this campus? Sure they talk to students- students who more or less report to them and who’s best interest it is to tell them what they want to hear. But they haven’t lived through it.

    Going out to drink and socialize has not turned into a game of “How plastered can I get and still make it home” for the majority of the student body that has to wake up the next morning and be productive.

    The culture at Lehigh DOES NOT reward students who are overly intoxicated and out of control. Fraternities don’t want those kids in their parties and sororities do not want to recruit girls who are a complete mess. Certain Freshman may have an immature mindset, but to attribute that to the entire student body is blasphemy.

    No matter what there will be students that decide to drink excessively. You are right that it is on us to make a phone call when someone is in danger, even though you might be held accountable and disciplined by the school for it. Kappa Sigma did the right thing by calling for help when a student was in danger, even though the school decided that medical amnesty did not apply and revoked their charter. Whether the school prioritizes its desire to witch hunt greek life or its responsibility to keep the students safe is a mystery to me.

    Maybe the administration should start holding itself to the standard to which it holds its students. The hypocrisy is nauseating. A university that treats its students unfairly will only cause the students to want to rebel and drink excessively. The school should recognize its role in this cycle and act accordingly.

    • Forgive me if I don’t value the insight of a (former) member of a fraternity without University recognition as a result the Pennsylvania State Police (not the Lehigh or Bethlehem police departments) issuing 40+ underage students citations at formal where there were minimal risk management procedures in place, sending multiple students to the hospital who were overly intoxicated, hazing, and ghost pledging. Kappa Sigma was on deferred dissolution for a period and was offered educational sanctions to assist your chapter leaders rebuilding credibility and the organization’s expectations of its members. Your fraternity was removed from the Greek community for its own repeated failure to meaningfully contribute to the Greek community and to act as a responsible community member, and I consider you personally responsible as a then-junior in the organization for failing to step up to the plate and allowing your fraternity to disregard the community’s expectations which apply to all fraternities and sororities. But I suppose it’s convenient to blame others, huh?

    • A concerned individual on

      you are very naive. No fraternity charter is revoked for one incident. Also blaming the school for “causing” students to rebel and drink excessively is laughable. Really??? Put the mirror up to yourself and your fraternity and act responsibly. It is still against the law to drink under the age of 21 (I know everybody does it).

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