Can Spontaneity Exist on a College Campus?

Yet another addition to the saga of CMC’s party politics transpired at Wedding Party last weekend. At one point in the night, Campus Security stopped admitting students. Dozens of
students, drunk and belligerent after buying a ticket for a party they could not attend,
acted out. Things got out of hand. Eventually the Claremont Police Department (CPD) showed up, citing a noise complaint. 

Last month, a similar situation
prompted a dialogue about Claremont’s party culture when administrators
enforced new guidelines on an unregistered party by calling CPD. Students weighed in on both incidents on social
media, on listservs and even in this publication. Each one developed its own version of the events.

The targets of blame are
many: the overzealous campus security presence, event organizers, drunk and
disrespectful students, and administrators.

After the dust settles,
student opinions tend to separate into a few camps.

The
sympathetic: “Lay off it, we weren’t doing anything wrong!”

The
accusers: “Yeah, you were.”

And
the apathetic, who always win: “Can’t we focus on something more important?”
Caring least always wins, somehow. In some sense, the apathetic
are right: It’s just a bunch of privileged brats not wanting to be told what to
do. Wasting oxygen talking about parties is pretty stupid. 

But maybe we’re not talking
about parties.

College foists structure upon
students. Rules, academic requirements, clubs, organizations, professional
development—it’s all structure. The structure of Claremont is good. It’s a
guarantee of material success. Structure is what you’re paying for. But
structure can be stifling.

One also needs spontaneity.
One needs to embrace a little chaos. Unfortunately, there isn’t a lot of room
for that.

After walking out of residence halls and eating in dining halls, we run off to fulfill our academic obligations. We
spend all day attending lectures and labs and completing assignments. When 4 p.m. rolls around, we
finally have some free time. It’s time to let loose.

One can play Frisbee—the most
classic example of college free-form fun. That’s what it’s known for, isn’t it?
The sport of free time, impromptu and barefoot. You might as well join the
Ultimate Frisbee team. They’re recognized at the Division I level. They have
games and practices and uniforms and coaches—more structure.

One can pick up an instrument
and find some friends to jam with. Just be careful; if you sing too loud, an a cappella group might drag you along to a competition. (They’ll make you wear a
matching fedora too.)

Maybe you have a pet project,
like the next Mark Zuckerberg building Facebook out of a residence hall room. After all,
isn’t the ethos of the tech entrepreneur one of rejecting rules and turning
immense personal risk into incredible riches? Well, actually, we have guidelines
for success in Silicon Valley—the Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship.

Perhaps the place for
spontaneity isn’t during the semester, but summer break. Except there’s the
overwhelming expectation to land a summer internship. Internships usurp the
summer as a time for decompression. It’s another program with instructions and
oversight.

One can study abroad, fulfilling
the stereotype of growing a beard, learning a foreign language and dating someone exotic
in Peru or Denmark or wherever. Except that, too, is often
structured. Returning students frequently admit they spent most of their time
with other Americans or traveling with programs that look more like an
all-expense-paid Euro tour than an opportunity to be spontaneous.

So we go about our weeks
following the guidelines, letting the submissive little automaton inside our
brain direct us. Then it’s Saturday night, and we want to stop jumping through
hoops. It’s time for a party. It’s time to sing along to Miley Cyrus and pound
some Keystone Light. 

But college even
institutionalizes parties. There are guidelines to adhere to, authority figures
to yield to and people making sure you’re really, really safe. It all starts to
feel like the world’s most expensive middle school dance. Everything is
pre-planned and sanitized. Structure swallows spontaneity.

But why
do we need spontaneity?

Spontaneity
is, at the heart of it, choice. Not a choice between A or B, but among the
infinite, minute possibilities of everything. In this choice is where we ‘find
ourselves.’ We can allow ourselves to shed our obligations and do what we want
to do, if only for a moment. It is where we undergo that mental and spiritual
transition that college is supposed to facilitate.

So when
we’re talking about drunk college kids at a party, we might be talking about
something much deeper and more serious than those who want to talk about something
“more important” give us credit. I admit, commenting on the psychological
turmoil of belligerent trust-funded students is silly. But if it’s not
important, why do we all want to talk about it?

Sam Pitcavage CM ’15 is a government and economics major, athlete and dining hall enthusiast from Beaverton, Ore.

This post was updated on 7:25 p.m. on March 8, 2015 to add in an Oxford comma.

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