(OPINION): An Open Letter to Those Who Think MSU Students Can Do Better
Updated: Oct 10, 2019
As a student, I cannot count the number of times I have overheard or seen fellow students break ordinances and the law, while on campus property. From smoking behind dumpsters, to smoking in dorm rooms; from drinking at parties, to drinking in a car at a red light. I have seen many things that defy common sense.
The university has a whole host of rules and ordinances, not to mention Federal Law, that are supposed to regulate how students and others associated with the university act, yet they are virtually all ignored. Occasionally however, the university likes to add a new ordinance in an attempt to feign concern for the students here, but they almost always miss the ball.
For instance, over the summer, they added an ordinance banning mopeds and scooters from parking at bicycle racks. Not only is this ordinance ignored and not enforced, it was unnecessary. They claimed it was to keep mopeds off the sidewalk and keep pedestrians safe, but I have never seen a moped even come close to hitting someone on the sidewalk. The real problem is bicycles on the sidewalks, in my year and month here, I have been hit by 2 bikes and almost hit by countless others.
Technically, bicycles are not supposed to be on the sidewalks with pedestrians since they move faster and are a hazard to safe walking. Yet everyone and their brother ignores this and rides their bikes on the sidewalks, making it difficult for people to walk without being almost hit by a bike going three to four times as fast as the person walking. But no one cares, because everyone does it.
A week or two ago, I saw a girl walk towards a crosswalk and another girl on a bicycle move towards her on the sidewalk and run into the girl; the girl walking, for reasons unknown to me, felt the need to apologize even though she did nothing wrong but cross the sidewalk diagonally to get to the crosswalk. The girl on the bike was more than far enough away from her to avoid hitting her, yet still hit her because like most college students, she could not make the right and safe choice. But everyone rides on the sidewalk, so why enforce the ordinance?
It is that mentality that is making the university unsafe. We figure if everyone does it, we should not enforce the rules against it. But that just breeds more ignorance and purposeful ignoring of the laws. Students are, for the most part, not allowed to drink in their dorms, yet when I left the building for a fire drill, I could not help but notice a few bottles of alcohol in several dorm windows.
Smoking on campus is also a favorite illegal pastime here. Every night, someone in a dorm below my sixth-floor room, opens their window and blows smoke out, and smoke comes right into my room through the window. Sure, I could just close the window, but why should I change what I do to accommodate someone breaking the law?
Marijuana is not the only thing smoked here however, not a day goes by that I do not see a student smoking a cigarette or using a vape pen. Both of which are banned as of August 2016. Yet, no one cares. Too many of my fellow students have taken up the attitude that it does not matter if these people break the law because so many people do it, or it is just what young college kids do.
But does that make it right? Again, I say no. If everyone started murdering others, should we ignore it and not punish those that commit that crime? I know many will say, “of course not! No one in their right mind would question that. But, smoking some pot is not the same, it is much less harmful.”
But once we start ignoring and not enforcing one ordinance or law, when do we stop? What ordinance or law do we not ignore? What do we use as our measurement in this regard? In this student’s opinion, we should enforce all rules and ordinances to the full extent they allow. Only then can we be sure we are the world class university we claim to be.
But this problem is not only the university’s problem, it is up to the students, faculty, staff, and the City of East Lansing to help solve this problem.
Every student here is constantly told and reminded how they are the future of the world, the only hope, and the smartest generation this world has ever seen. Yet, here we are smoking, drinking to blackout, and breaking ordinances we do not care for because they inconvenience our lives. So much for us being the smartest and best generation yet.
The City of East Lansing is also responsible in part for making the city and university safer. Every weekend, especially during home games, there are house parties and tailgates where underage drinking is rampant. These students are not just drinking a beer or two, most are drinking hard liquor until they throw up, which has been proven to be the worst kind of drinking for anyone under the age of 21.
Everyone knows that underage drinking happens at these events, but nothing is done about it. In this student’s opinion, the police, city, and university are directly responsible for all that happens to these students. I am not ignorant of the laws preventing illegal search and seizures along with keeping police from entering non-public property without a warrant, but how hard can it be to find a technicality or to obtain a warrant to break up these gatherings?
The City of Flint, in 2006, implemented a Crime Area Targeting Team, this team went into areas known for crime activity and stopped the crimes before they became crimes. I am ignorant, however, of the exact details of how this team works and the legality of their operations, but their tactics have proven to work. East Lansing could easily implement these tactics in regards to house parties and lawn tailgates.
Under East Lansing City Codes, sidewalks are public property, and police officers are well within their right to stop and question any individual on them they believe to be breaking the law. Why not use that to break up parties and stop underage drinking?
It may seem to some that this letter is only about the writer’s hatred of drinking, but it is not. Underage drinking is just the most abundant and widely accepted law that is broken here. So, it was easier to make this point using examples of how often this law was broken.
Finally, many of the readers of this letter must be wondering, “what is the writer's point?” And to that, I would respond with my point is that the university cannot expect the students here to take any of its ordinances and laws seriously until enforcement takes precedent. The university is one of many institutions that chooses to ignore the crimes of some while punishing the crimes of others. To this student, it appears that if your parents can afford to send you here, then the university is more than happy to ignore the fact that you break the laws here. Much like how the university ignores and even tries to cover up the crimes and misdoings of its student athletes; but that warrants a letter to itself.
It is this students fear that if we are taught that breaking the rules, ordinances, and laws is okay while we are here, that we will attempt to do so once they leave the university for the “real world.” The fear of people who think they are above the law is ironically held by many who themselves believe they are above the law while they are in attendance here.
A Sad Spartan