While it can be said that "kids will be kids" and some things never change, how do the social lives of young adults in college today compare to those of one or two generations ago? Although there are probably always choices on a range from healthy and constructive to unhealthy and precarious, are more students participating in the latter activities?
A recent OBSERVER column dated Nov. 24, "In-town Rundown," by April Diodato contained a sad portrait of the choices many SUNY college students are making as part of their social lives. This weekly column that summarized local events and entertainment in the downtown area stated, "This year's batch of college students seems especially raucous, and every weekend night they're out in droves."
Many of these students are too inebriated to stand and are obnoxious. It's no surprise that this involves other alcohol related incidents. We can certainly read about it in the OBSERVER ourselves with the arrests for urinating anywhere they pass and the underage drinking. It's also not a stretch to identify other behaviors that go along with this.
The annual Christmas dance at Old Main, pictured in 1951. The Angel Choir is singing down from the third floor.
Where does the fault of such behavior choices lie? Is it the fault of the parents in raising their children? How many would believe what their son or daughter was up to at college after the money and sacrifices many endured to send them to college in the first place? Is it the first-time freedom away from home or is it a mirror of our times and what is now considered acceptable behavior? The police seem to have constant duty to break up parties at the many homes now rented to college students with some landlords advertising large areas for parties. These are meeting grounds for underage drinking and/or other illegal activities and casual sexual encounters that cannot possibly have good consequences. Not to throw all students into the same pot, there must be some who attend class and study in a sober condition, are busy working to help pay their tuition, and try to find like-minded friends who opt out of destructive behaviors. Sadly, this is a much smaller group than years ago.
It seems our society and college life in general has changed drastically and gone into moral decay. If it were like years ago, it would be a different story. Let's take a look at Fredonia State in 1949, in the years after World War II when I (Rosamond) attended with a group of friends from Long Island. First of all, there was no tuition. We only needed to pay for room and board, books and a small fee. There were 11 New York State colleges at the time to choose from. In each you could earn a bachelor of science degree in education plus each campus also had a specialty. For example, Fredonia had music and Brockport and Cortland had physical education. With no tuition, it allowed a great number of students to get their college degree, including myself.
For living quarters, there was only one dormitory for students, which is now Gregory Hall, with Cease's food service for our meals in the middle section. One wing was for men, the other for women. No co-habitation. The other housing included a few houses set aside for students with a "house mother" where you had to sign in and out, allowing a 10 p.m. curfew during the week with one 12 a.m. curfew a month. The other housing was College Hall, a barracks-like structure for women with bunk beds in each corner, housing eight to a room. This was behind Alumni Hall on Central Avenue. These were all for women. Men had houses set aside for them. Remember, there were not that many students here then. If we got sick, we suffered in our bunks. There was no infirmary as they have now.
Going to class involved the education students who went to classes at Old Main, now senior housing, while the music students attended classes at the original music building on the new campus. Meals were served at Old Main before the new campus had accommodations. It also housed the gymnasium, the library, and an auditorium where students were strictly enforced to attend plays and lectures. This is also where graduation was held. The ground floor had the "practice school" and offices. Other college built-in events included dances in the lobby of Old Main. For Christmas we had an angel chorus that sang coming down from the third floor. We rented Floral Hall for all our school proms.
Socially, we did not hang out downtown. There was Ganghi's restaurant and the Colonial Inn where we ate when we had an extra dollar. Henry's was the only bar. As for morals, in years past a much greater number of young women were sexually abstinent. On a date, the boy was lucky to get a goodnight kiss. How many young women in today's society give themselves away, and as a consequence lose the respect and excitement of true romance and love saved for their life's mate? Shocking by today's standards as evidenced by the huge parking lots at the college campus, we were not allowed cars. If we wanted to go home with a student for the weekend in Buffalo, we needed to get written permission from Dean Gibson, the dean of students. Most out-of-town students took the New York Central Railroad that stopped in Dunkirk or took the bus.
Although coming from the horrors of World War II, in many other ways this yesterday era was a more innocent time when college students had clean fun in a sober state and appreciated the opportunity for a higher education. Make it a good week and teach young people for whom you have influence to choose behaviors that respect themselves and others.
Rosamond & Mary
Send comments on this column to firstname.lastname@example.org