from an alums about police undercover operations at the eating clubs
March 12, 2003
PAW reported in the
March 12 Notebook on the latest and nastiest incident in Princeton
Borough Police Chief Charles Davall's escalating vendetta against students,
and in the January
29 Notebook on the university's sudden dramatic increase in unrestricted
cash grants to the Borough government, but has failed to connect the dots.
Let me do so.
If students coming to Princeton face a substantially
greater risk of leaving college with a criminal record than do students
going to peer institutions, it is not because our students are doing anything
their counterparts elsewhere are not. It is because the municipal council
has appointed a police chief who is a zealot for proactive prohibition
enforcement, and who has made harassing undergraduates his number-one
priority. (His aim is to close down any place within walking distance
where students might drink, as if the experience of schools across the
country did not show that the result would be traffic accidents involving
students driving back after partying out of town, rather than mass conversion
of students to teetotalism.) The council has given Davall enough resources
to put an army of a half-dozen uniformed and plainclothes officers on
Prospect on weekends, plus undercover agents in the clubs, and more. Sadly,
the fact that they have felt free to commit such resources without counting
the cost, which must run well into six figures, is largely the result
of the misdirected generosity of Nassau Hall.
There is worse to come. The council is poised to grant
Davall an ordinance that will allow him to stage raids on private clubs
at will, on no more pretext than a noise complaint, which he can easily
get whenever he wants. At the same time, the university has announced
a huge increase in its cash gifts to the Borough. The amount of damage
to student lives and careers Davall will be able to do once armed with
the new ordinance from the council and an extra hundred thousand dollars
from the university is alarming to contemplate.
Why has the administration just now, when the behavior
of the beer police of Chief Davall is increasingly resembling that of
the morals police of Mullah Omar, chosen to reward the council that installed
and funds Davall by handing them a gift of an great sum of money, a large
fraction of which will surely end up in Davall's hands? Perhaps administrators
simply got tired of listening to the relentless nagging of local pols,
who habitually excuse their own fiscal irresponsibility, beginning with
their gross over-spending on police operations, by blaming the university's
tax-exempt status for a lack of revenue, and caved in to the pols' demands.
In that case, the administration needs to be nagged a little from the
other side. Alumni who do not think sponsoring raids on student organizations
and subsidizing the establishment of a network of police spies on campus
is an appropriate use of endowment income and Annual Giving contributions
should let the president know their sentiments. Princeton Borough does
not deserve to get a cent from the university until Davall has been dismissed
and his undercover agents along with him, and until the police budget
has been cut by the amount he has been devoting to his war on students.
John P. Burgess 69
Professor of Philosophy
February 5, 2003
I am replying to a distressing article I just read in the Daily
Princetonian about arresting officers of eating clubs for serving
alcohol to minors who were actually undercover police-people.
While it may appear at first blush that you are working for the safety
of the students, one would presume that an organization that sees so much
of the dark side of partying should be able to easily predict the outcome
of its actions.
Princeton has been, in all the time I've known it, a uniquely safe place
for college kids to have fun (yes, by drinking). The preferred party locations
are all in walking distance from everywhere on campus, so no one drives.
No money is exchanged so there is much lower risk for property and violent
crime motivated by money. Our public heath system is set up in such a
way that students can seek the safety of their friends first, without
worrying about repercussions that may dissuade them from getting medical
help. Finally, and most germane to the issue at hand, the eating clubs
serve beer weak, cheap beer, and they tend to serve it free to anyone
who wants it.
As a former eating club officer at Colonial Club (the frequent host of
such underage parties as the freshman and sophomore formals), I have direct
experience with two very different types of parties at Princeton
the "normal" nights where beer sloshed through the building,
and those formal events where no alcohol was served by the club whatsoever.
The interesting and surprising phenomenon, which apparently the police
are not aware of, is that there was always a marked increase in the number
of dangerously drunk (and by dangerously I mean that students were sent
to the hospital, not to McCosh health center) on those nights during which
no alcohol was served at the clubs to those minors. I do not feel that
I need to further explain, but in case what seems obvious to me is not
obvious to the law enforcement decision-makers, I will. When denied the
ability to drink the cheap, weak beer that is served at the eating clubs
on a weekly basis, students (yes, even underage ones) instead will consume
alcohol on their own. And specifically when the place of partying and
the place of drinking is separated by a 15-minute walk, those underage
students will tend to drink large amounts of hard liquor in order
to remain drunk at the party. And as anyone who has been drunk before
can attest, it is a hell of a lot easier to get "too drunk"
with liquor than it is with cheap beer.
College kids are going to drink. They are not going to sit around and
play Scrabble through all hours of the night. If they can't get free Milwaukee's
Best at the clubs, they will drink cheap vodka that their neighbor bought
with his fake I.D. If that neighbor's fake I.D. gets taken, then older
brother from home will bring up 20 bottles of rum the next time he comes
up to tide over his brother and roommates. And those kids will drink a
lot of liquor very quickly, fill up a cup with half rum and half coke,
and head out to the clubs, MUCH drunker and MUCH less safe than they would
have been before. And more of those students will find themselves in the
hospital the next day because of it.
So please ask yourself whether, in your zealous attempt uphold what is
indeed the law, you are actually putting more students in danger. When
this policy does more harm than good, will you be prepared to revert back
to the proper and safe policy, or will you knee-jerk again and aim for
an even more restrictive policy that causes yet more harm?