Student Aides: these strong-willed, obedient and dutiful individuals permeate the campus on a nightly basis, tracking down scoundrels, making sure all the TVs in the lounges still work, fighting for the man. Those boys and girls in blue evoke a sense of subservience – coupled with a strong questioning as to what exactly it is that they do – in all of us. But these questions about their efficacy aside, I’d like to consider that perhaps behind the honor and the altruism of our walkie-talkie branding peers, there lies a misplacement of power – and even an abuse or misuse of it.
I find something very wrong in the notion that students should have a sense of power and assertion over their peers, especially because of personal prejudices and the seemingly awful effect this has on their ego. Certainly, this power displacement is seen elsewhere – RAs, MERT, etc. – but none of these organizations seem as superfluous as that of the Student Aide, nor as clearly biased.
In my experience and observation, it is the menace of the two or three students gathered by the river or even in their dorm rooms who smoke a bit of marijuana and talk about Nietzsche that seem to be the truest threat to the Student Aides. The shrill yells of alcohol-induced hysteria emanating from the freshman dorms seem to be much less enticing to the Student Aides than those all-too-threatening “suspicious smells.” Also, it may be pertinent to say that this prejudice against marijuana is not found only within Student Aides; it seems to be a generally held belief across campus that marijuana is a particularly dangerous and threatening drug. More powerful and dangerous drugs like alcohol do not evoke this mindset.
It seems to me it would be rare, if not unimaginable, that we would find a scantily clothed freshman girl sprawled out in the middle of the Frat Quad, possibly in need of medical assistance or at least a glass of water, because those last few hits of marijuana really did her in. In fact, (although I once heard one Student Aide boasting of a time when he assisted in the dispatching of a student to the hospital, on D-Day no less, because he had seemingly “overdosed” on marijuana) there are no recorded fatalities or overdoses with marijuana as a cited cause, and it seems to me that in order for marijuana to be imminently harmful at the time of use, it would be due to outstanding psychiatric reasons or, more importantly, if it was used in conjunction with alcohol.
I understand that it could be argued that Student Aides are just doing their job and abiding by the duties assigned to them. However, I find it difficult to believe that the unfair targeting of the casual marijuana smoker on campus is UR Security policy, considering my observations of Security with regard to this matter have been seemingly positive and fair. If the specific hounding of these certain delinquents is simply a result of a strict adherence to job description and duty, then I urge the Student Aides to disregard it. This policy is backwards – don’t adhere to it. You don’t have to. I see no need for the Student Aides, or any student for that matter, to propagate the backward, confused and nonsensical prejudice that UR may have and the country most certainly has against the casual use of recreational drugs.
However, more important than this specific prejudice (of which I’m sure there are more), it’s the attitudes of the Student Aides themselves that really irks me – that certain hauteur and dictatorial holier-than-thou that seems to present itself in all of their dealings with their peers. I once tried to suspend this belief when I saw a group of Student Aides outside my dorm. I asked them if they needed me to swipe them in, and they responded, “Oh, no, we can get in anywhere whenever we want.” It almost seems as though these students have suspended their status as our peers in order to become overpaid hall monitors. I acknowledge that this generalization is certainly not the case for all Student Aides, and I’m not sure that this attitude is entirely their fault.
I think it would be more logical to restrict the duties of the Student Aides – even if by a little – to dealing with things like calling in repairs to facilities, notifying MERT if someone is sick and smaller, more effectual duties. I think that giving students the duty of being on the constant lookout for the wrongdoings of other students leads to a disparity in power that creates a sort of authoritarian snobbery – a snobbery that doesn’t go away. It starts with the hall monitors in fourth grade, and it makes its way right into adulthood: in law, in the government and even in day-to-day dealings with other people. If we can prevent or at least hinder this now, I guarantee it will be to the benefit of all of us in the future.
Fornarola is a member of the class of 2009.