Dormitory Disorientation Manual
A revolutionary tract of sorts
By J & B
Two Structures, One House
The bureaucratic structure at Collins Living Learning Center is unique among the residence halls at Indiana University. A parallel structure exists: Residence Life, consisting of RAs, Diversity Advocates, and the Residence Life Coordinator & Assistant Coordinator, is a completely separate entity from the LLC, which is an academic unit within the College of Arts and Sciences (COAS). Though Residence Life has its minions in every dorm on campus, the LLC is unique to Collins.
The LLC represents a radical residential ideal which centers around the integration of living and learning into a democratic approach to student life. It is fundamentally opposed to the traditional structure of the dormitory/residence hall, in which students are little more than the safekeeps of foster parents; and it is in its essence opposed to the traditional approach of the university itself, in which learning is a commodity to be parceled out in the sterile environs of classrooms and libraries.
Residence Life is a division of the office of the Dean of Students. Their primary function is to oversee and "improve" the quality of student life in the residence halls. Res Life works on the assumption that most students are not mature enough to live together in self-governed peace and harmony (probably true). Residence Life thus exists to guide students through the transition from parent-bound home life into meaningful and responsible independence, as well as to protect university property and liability from the misdeeds of inconsiderate or imbalanced students.
There is clearly a need for Residence Life. Students, left to their own devices, have proven incapable of resisting the urge to break windows, abuse substances, and beat the hell out of one another. Resident Assistants and other staff members have time and again proven invaluable to the safety of residents and the protection of University property. However, in the same breath it should be noted that the realization of Residence Life is a patent failure at Indiana University. By taking an anti-intellectual, paternalistic, authoritarian stance, Residence Life refuses to engage in serious dialogue with students, often preferring to stick to the letter of the law and the dictates of the Dean of Students. You can test this, by the way. Go down the hall to your RA's room and pop open a beer. See how far you get in your discussion of IU's alcohol policy before IUPD gets there.
Res Life and You
Residence Life is an intrusive force in the university, and that fact is nowhere more evident than at the Collins LLC. Though most Collins residents have made special application to live at Collins, no such special process exists for the representatives of Residence Life. In fact, if a Resident Assistant (RA) requests placement at Collins, he or she will most likely be placed elsewhere. Resident Assistants at Collins are little more than informal police, and often harbor resentment for having to live with all these 'freaks.' Of course, your RA may share the ideals of the LLC. It's a matter of chance.
Perhaps because the LLC is unique to Collins, Residence Life often fails to accommodate in its general policies for the special approach of Collins. Policies regarding guests and escorts, drugs and alcohol, and social gatherings are handed down from above, with virtually no regard for resident opinion. In an environment (such as Collins) which is philosophically centered around the concept of democratic self-governance, this is a travesty.
What to Do?
The most important ingredient in your education is autonomy. Residence Life's primary function is to take that autonomy away from you.
Feel free to pursue your every interest, no matter how esoteric or base. Do not define your parameters according to the artificial boundaries of the law. Only through self-motivation and active interest will your mind and spirit be truly challenged and expanded.
Your classes represent one window into your education. By the time you graduate, it is certain that at least one of your college professors will have had a major impact on your life and thought. You should not shortchange this avenue; but neither should you overvalue it. The rigid set of 'general education' requirements, the philosophically indefensible attendance policies of certain departments, and the limited room for creativity in your classes will all, to varying degrees, stunt your growth. Whether or not you achieve your potential during your college years (and afterward) depends largely on your own self-assurance and autonomous creativity.
Never forget that your education is for you and you alone. Meditate on this thought every day. Write it on your notebooks and walls. The structure of Indiana University (as with most other universities and colleges) works against you: your professors earn most of their money and all of their prestige through research, and thus have little interest in catering to your needs. Attendance policies exist to ease the workload of professors -- NOT to enrich your education. Professors are given free reign to assign paper topics and readings however they see fit (which usually translates to 'whatever is easiest for them to grade'), and so chances are you'll often find yourself writing papers on topics in which you have absolutely no interest, or taking multiple choice tests, or reading inexcusably long books (if it's all in the book, the professor doesn't have to explain it). Only by declaring your autonomy and guiding your own education can you reach beyond these strictures.
If going to class means missing an important meeting or interrupting a mind-expanding discussion, you have the right to determine for yourself whether going to class is a good idea. If a professor assigns a paper topic or reading which does not inspire you, approach him/her with calmness, sympathy, and an open mind, but never allow yourself to be forced to perform in a degrading or unmeaningful way simply to earn a passing grade. If a university policy or action proves philosophically indefensible, fight it.
Try new things daily: smoke marijuana or take LSD; lie in bed thinking all day; run naked through the courtyard; explore your sexuality; hitch-hike or hop a train; sleep under your bed; study yoga or the Bible or Nietzche; grow something or draw something or write something.
All of these things are acts of rebellion in our society, because they are acts of will. Within that enormous arena of opportunity lies an infinite number of possibilities.
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