Tag Archives: Opinion

The Parking System Should Be Obeyed and Enforced

Parker Dunaway ’15, Editor in Chief

This editorial may garner some animosity from everyone on campus, but I think it is a prudent observation and request. There seems to be a problem on campus with our parking system, in terms of how it is utilized and how it is enforced. It has been my observation that students, staff, and faculty members alike have a tendency to ignore some of the parking policies on campus when convenient. Their (our) ignoring the regulations has led to the complaints. ‘Why do students park in between Maples and Winston? Don’t they know they aren’t supposed to?’ ‘Why can the administration park by the Commons in the space marked “T.H.C. only”? Don’t they know they aren’t supposed to?’ The grievances continue, seemingly forever. The grumbles and moans of our campus regarding who can and can’t park in certain areas are the result of two specific things: drivers’ purposeful ignoring of policies when it suits them and the failure of the police department to regularly and appropriately cite these improperly parked vehicles.

When everyone gets to school that first week in August, there is a plethora of those little orange envelops all over campus, on every illegally parked car. The problem is, from that point on, the ticketing only happens sporadically. Weeks will go by without seeing a citation, yet the amount of illegally parked cars remains the same. Then one day, the orange slips are back; as if they were the leaves of a tree in autumn, the tickets show up almost seasonally. Perhaps, if the police department more regularly ticketed cars that deserved it, the people that tend to park incorrectly would mend their ways.

It must be said, however, that the blame does not rest solely on the shoulders of our campus security. That student, who may have woken up late and decides to park in the post office spaces in front of Graham in order to quickly gain access to Morton Hall, or the staff members, who park near the loading dock to the Commons so that they have easy access, are just as responsible. I know that our campus is enormous, but the walk from wherever you are is far easier to deal with than the complaints from the entire campus and the ticket you should get.

It seems simple: those in charge of policing should police, and those charged with obeying policy should obey. I just think everyone should do what they are supposed to do—students, faculty, staff, and the police department.

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Hampden-Sydney’s Most Cherished Tradition: Student Protests

Dylan DelliSanti ’14 and Tarun Sharma ‘15

            Hampden-Sydney, more so than other institutions, places a special emphasis on its traditions. The Honor Code is held in high regard and posted in each classroom; tailgating has likely been the same since football players started wearing leather helmets; and despite over two centuries of existence, the school has managed to retain its old Southern charm. However, there is one tradition that has not received the respect it deserves: student protests. While protesting is not typically associated with Hampden-Sydney students, it is a rich part of our history. Throughout the College’s storied history, protests have been an effective and important method of protecting student and College interests, and should continued to be utilized in appropriate situations in the future.

            One of the main reasons that protests are appropriate, insofar as protecting and improving the College and its traditions, is because student happiness and collegiate life have a symbiotic relationship. Students have an interest in promoting the social fabric of the community because the College is part of each alumnus’ individual legacy. Motivation aside, as young people, they tend to have more “local knowledge” as to what is happening in pop culture and in social life. This knowledge allows for students to define their college experience, which the social interactions between classmates and guests weigh into heavily. At the same time, the faculty and administration can provide a nice counter-weight in trying to promote education, an almost equally important element to the college experience. This has guided past protests, like the Dance Protests in 1904. It is a well-known fact that the College was once directly affiliated with the Presbyterian Church. History tells us that when Presbyterians took control of the Board of Trustees in 1904, they immediately banned dancing due to the fact that it was considered to be an “immoral” activity. This resulted in a lack of dances or yearbooks in 1904 or 1905. Students responded by painting the President’s horse and various slogans on buildings. The student body found a likely ally in Maj. Richard Venable, who organized dances in the house in which the Hampden-Sydney Museum now stands, which was then off-campus and known as the Comity Club. Another example is the access of female guests to dorm buildings. In the 1960s, when students across the country were burning down administration buildings in protest of the War in Vietnam, Hampden-Sydney students camped out in the lawn of Atkinson Hall for most of a week. Eventually, administrators acquiesced to the students’ desires, and students were allowed to bring female guests to their dormitory rooms, a privilege that students still place a high value upon today. Students used quite docile protests in order to keep Hampden-Sydney’s social values and traditions up with the times.

Moreover, students will one day become alumni and will likely wish for their children to attend the College. Thus, they might know which traditions and institutions are worth preserving better than faculty members and administrators who do not have (or do not wish to have) a long-term connection to the College. This can be seen in the undistinguished legacy of President Leutze, who in his short tenure between 1987 and 1990, attempted to motorize the process of ringing the Watkins Bell Tower. Scaffolding was erected inside the Bell Tower so that the ringing could be mechanized. However, students went to the structure in the middle of the night and dismantled the scaffolding, reassembling it on the front steps of Middlecourt. The plans were promptly disbanded, and the bell is still manually rung today. Leutze did not have a great context of Hampden-Sydney’s main bell that, as General Sam says, calls Hampden-Sydney’s sons back to the Hill. He did not understand that not only did students value the tradition of the bell, but that it is considered an honor amongst the Buildings and Grounds staff to be chosen to ring the Bell Tower. Traditionally, the longest tenured housekeeping staff member is in charge of the manual ringing of the Bell. Thus, it is in the College’s best interest for students to determine some traditions that are maintained throughout the tenures of multiple Presidents.

So we find that it is sometimes necessary for student protests to occur, especially if student demands are being ignored. Not only can students curb wrongdoing that are committed by higher-ups in the administration, but preserve traditional values that the College and its sons still care deeply about, such as the aforementioned manual operation of the Watkins Bell Tower. At the same time, students are able to update social values that may be lagging due to Hampden-Sydney’s isolation. Protests have a long history of being successful on the Hill, and it is important to continue to value them going forward in events of student misgivings about occurrences because it is vital to the legacy of alumni and the future of the College. 

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Improvement through Abandoning American Exceptionalism

David Williams ’14, Staff Writer

Many people in the US maintain the belief that the United States is different from every other country in the world because of our beliefs and foundations. This belief, termed “American Exceptionalism”, has morphed into a way to proclaim that the United States of America is the best country in the world. However, this set of beliefs is dangerous to hold at a time when this nation is on the edge of a systematic change in the function of our government.

With the recent government shutdown, it is easy to see that at least one of the systems we rely on to run our country has fallen to a point where we can no longer claim that we have created the best government and culture in the world. By insulating ourselves in an intellectual comfort blanket, we are losing the ability to adapt our government system, economy and culture. Without looking to other countries for successful methods of dealing with the problems that have been plaguing our country recently, we cannot expect to maintain the high level of functioning that we have at least perceived during our country’s existence.

If you look at the statistics that the CIA collects and publishes in its World Fact Book, it is easy to see that the US does not have the best policies when looking at certain factors. Most damning to this perception of our supposed dominance is the fact that 15% of Americans live below the poverty line. It is clear that we have a system that is broken if we are leaving behind 15% of our country at a point when we classify them as in need of assistance to maintain their needs. While we maintain the largest economy in the world, we have a distribution of ownership of funds that is similar to that of a lesser developed nation. The United States has the 41st most concentrated income distribution in the world. The top ten percent of income earners in our country maintain 30 percent of the wealth. We have to look to other nations and their ways of promoting income distribution in order to renew the ability of the United States to continue developing our economy and maintain our standard of living.

The current strain of “American Exceptionalism” is a dangerous belief. By putting ourselves so far above the rest of the world, we prevent ourselves from realizing the policies that are best for creating the country that we envision ourselves living in as well as improving the country that we live in now.

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Is America still Exceptional?

Graves Anthony ’16, Staff Writer

Taking a look back at the 20th anniversary of the Battle of Mogadishu, I stop and think about the argument over American exceptionalism. Alexis de Tocqueville, upon visiting America, called this nation “exceptional”. Other uses stem from the early communist movements here in the US. The major leader in the communist party in Europe, Joseph Stalin, is credited for having coined the phrase “American exceptionalism”.  Seymour Martin Lipset defines American exceptionalism, in his book American Exceptionalism: A Double-Edged Sword, as the United States being “qualitatively different” from other nations. This notion of America being “qualitatively different” from other nations is shown through the people of the United States who extend themselves, as well as resources, to help people throughout the world who’ve been oppressed. In the search for the truth of why America is exceptional, I look to the impact we, as the US, have made upon the world. For 237 years, America has been leading the way for democratic republics across the world.

In many cases, we, as Americans, see the negatives and the flaws of our society; however we fail to see how good things really are in the US compared to those in some countries in South America, Africa and Asia. We take for granted the fact that we have a say in what goes on in our country compared to those countries that function off of one man or one family ruling a whole people and those people don’t have a chance to change their circumstance.  In a historical context, we see the Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, and his love for America and how he believes in American Exceptionalism. Colonialism is dead and America wasn’t part of the major instances of colonialism that materialized in Africa or in the Far East.  I see America as being the exception from the world at the time of colonialism. That, in turn, defines America as “qualitatively different”.

It has been said that President Woodrow Wilson took a moralistic approach to his foreign policy. This moralistic approach leads to the US getting involved in WWI later rather than sooner. In the last twenty years, the US has taken a moralistic approach to foreign policy, for example: Iraq, Somalia, the Balkans, Libya, and now with Syria. The United States has had a longstanding tradition of fighting for those who are oppressed in countries in which said people would be killed if they spoke against the government in place. So the US goes in, topples the ruthless dictator, and puts in place a democratic form of government. As good as spreading democracy to the world sounds, it doesn’t always work. With this sense of moral obligation, that the US has to defend those who cannot defend themselves, we, as a people, have to accept that the US, in a traditional point of view, has to take the same stance on the issue of spreading democracy to the parts of the world in which it does not exist.

With the spread of democracy and western ideals comes pushback from groups that do not want the change. We saw that in the 1990’s with Somalia and we’ve seen it happen in Iraq and Libya in the 2000’s. The fact of the matter is that the US is an exceptional nation when it comes to the foreign policy of helping those countries in need. President George W. Bush saw a dire need for help in Africa because of the epidemic of AIDS/HIV. So, President Bush became the first President to give financial aid to Africa to help stop the epidemic of AIDS in Africa. I cite the job that President Obama has done with his approach to Syria and the modern application of a moralistic sense of authority that the US has over the world. President Obama did a good job drawing a red line when it came to using chemical weapons on your own people. However, he has sense showed a weakness by handing over primary negotiations on Syria to the Russians and President Putin.

America, as a nation, is qualitatively different from any other nation on this earth by the fact that she is not made up of one people but of many different peoples from many different countries. They all come to America for the same purpose: to lead a better life. Although the US may not be the best in healthcare or education, the idea that immigrants dream about coming to America to not only better themselves but more importantly to create a better life for the next generation. To quote the good Professor Dr. James Y. Simms, Jr., when asked whether America was still exceptional or not, he said, “Damn right America is still exceptional.” I believe that about sums it up. America, in my opinion, is still exceptional and will always be exceptional.

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What Makes an Ideal Hampden-Sydney Professor?

Dylan DelliSanti ‘14

            One of the most commonly debated questions on campus is: what is the ideal Hampden-Sydney man? This is an important debate to be had, and – while some peripheral questions remain – after centuries of inquiry, a fairly general consensus has been reached which can be captured in our Honor Code and Student Code of Conduct. However, a less debated, but equally important, question is: what is the ideal Hampden-Sydney professor? While college professors are not asked to hold our hands as tightly as grade school teachers, they are still charged with the important task of helping us progress from boys to men.

            Along with being a good man, a Hampden-Sydney student is asked to be a good citizen. This often entails that he engages in the public discourse, and works to discern and preserve truth – sometimes even going against popular opinion. As a result, the ideal Hampden-Sydney professor should be a role model in intellectual inquiry. Professors should help students pursue many and varied lines of thought, while also showing them correct methods of reasoning. What should be important for the professor is not that the student agrees with his or her opinion, but that the student argued his own opinion in a logical and reasonable manner. This does not entail that professors should be devoid of voicing their own opinions. Instead, professors should be open and explicit about what they believe, perhaps even arguing with students on issues where they disagree. Nonetheless, the professor should set a good example in this area by separating the individual from his ideas: if a student has an opinion contrary to the professor’s, the student should, of course, not be punished for disagreeing, but be judged on his ability to make a reasonable argument.

            This tenant of intellectual inquiry extends outside of the classroom. Often, students see college as either a playground with booze, or a stepping-stone to a career. However, college is also a time to appreciate acquiring knowledge for knowledge’s sake. Professors can serve as stalwarts of intellectual inquiry by engaging – in a respectful and intellectually honest manner – with other professors with whom they disagree. In a society in which ad hominem and loose reasoning is the norm from Presidential debates to Facebook comment threads, professors who demonstrate how to properly engage in debate on controversial issues can be the role models that Hampden-Sydney men need to be good citizens.

            Along with being open to intellectual inquiry, professors should work to preserve the highest standards. Our public education system often panders to the lowest tiers and many students go into college expecting the same treatment. However, there is little that is more demeaning to the dignity of the student, nor damaging to the value of our education, than professors who would pander to the lowest common denominator. This does not mean that professors should be unreasonable, but they should ask the student to grow. Hampden-Sydney – far from being an institution that simply hands out diplomas – should be a college that transforms students into something greater than they were when they first entered the gates. Thus, our professors should keep high standards to ensure that our students truly do grow from boys to men.

            Finally, our professors should take a reasonable interest in the growth of their students. There’s no doubt that many professors lead busy lives, often living far from campus. But, as best they can, they should take an interest in the lives of their students. This might mean being an active mentor in clubs for which they are the faculty advisor, or staying after class to debate controversial subjects or discuss career plans. At a small school like ours, this is one tenant of the ideal professor that should be easily achieved.

            If being a Hampden-Sydney student is a special distinction requiring high standards, then being a Hampden-Sydney professor should also come with greater duties. College is not simply a place you have to go to before you start your career. Rather, it is the only time in a young man’s life where he can pursue new ideas free from the environment he grew up in. In order to do so, the Hampden-Sydney student needs a culture that is open to inquiry, and will push him to become more than himself. Our professors are on the frontlines to creating and protecting this culture.

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12 Years after 9/11: New Leadership Needed

On Thursday, September 12, the Wilson Center hosted an informative event on the Bortz Library’s fourth floor that centered on the 12th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. Mark Gerencser, a Booz Allen Executive Vice President, stopped by The Hill to discuss how we can combat terrorism with a community approach, and ultimately a new kind of leadership. Mr. Gerencser has also held roles as an advisor to government, private and non-profit task forces in building up “megacommunities” to solve infrastructure nuances. He is the co-author of the book Mega Communities, and is a member of the National Security Education Board, just to name a few of the positions he’s held.

Mr. Gerencser opened up with a statement regarding how the United States (US) is doing since the attacks, and he stated that the country is faring “fairly well, but not adequate.” The country’s ports and information sharing techniques have improved, but not to a standard of ‘superb’ security.

He then went on to discuss three simulations in which he played a significant role. These simulations were different kinds of terror attacks on US soil, and were intended to improve preparations for any potential attack in the future. A couple months after 9/11, Mr. Gerencser’s first simulation was an airborne attack of the pneumonic plague in two locations of the country: one at a college basketball game and the other at an NHL game. Throughout the simulation, the unawareness led to one million virtual deaths.  This simulation was rerun twice, and in the third trial, the death rate had dropped to about 10,000 virtual deaths.  The results of this simulation included better business interactions, faster decision making, a need for a better alert system regarding airborne events and this simulation played a role in the formation of the Department of Homeland Security.

Mr. Gerencser then discussed his second simulation: a faulty port inspection giving way to a radioactive scare in 2002. In this simulation, a container with a hazardous device entered the Port of Los Angeles, was cleared and eventually shipped into the US. While in transit, the container fell over and the hazardous device emerged, causing authorities to investigate, and upon further inspection in the simulation, the hazardous device turned out to be a “dirty bomb.” During the investigation, all ports were shut down by US agencies, including the Coast Guard, FBI and Customs. Eventually, the ports were reopened after a virtual confusion on who had the authority to reopen the ports. This simulation helped point out flaws in the authority of ports reopening and the economic effects of closed ports. It also helped with the creation of the Customs-Trade Partnership Against Terrorism (C-TPAT).

From here, Mr. Gerencser got to his main point: a need for a new kind of leadership.  He mentioned that the new kind of leader needs to think about the larger picture and not be self-centered anymore. Ultimately, this new kind of leader should not have a “command and control” mentality but should have a lighter touch, charismatic, inspirational, compassionate, and be able to walk in another person’s shoes.  And where can this new kind of leader begin?  Megacommunities.  Megacommunities, as Mr. Gerencser pointed out, are networks where everyone involved has a vital capacity of the network across multiple entities. In essence, a megacommunity follows the guidelines of Metcalfe’s Law.  As the network grows, the connections exponentially increase, allowing limitless opportunities to collaborate and think of improved ideas to solving specific problems.

So 12 years after 9/11, there’s a call for a new kind of leader in our nation: one who can see the whole picture.  One who learns the tools of the trade in a sound environment, geared toward equipping tomorrow’s leaders with the necessary tools; an environment that—Mr. Gerencser pointed out—is just like Hampden-Sydney.

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A Golden Cage is But a Cage

Tarun Sharma ’15, Staff Writer

A few weeks ago, at a meeting of the President’s Leadership Council, the issue of swipe cards that I have discussed in this very space was debated at length. After the meeting, several students hung around to ask Dr. Howard questions. I bring this up because I was troubled to hear a statement from a fellow student that went along the lines of: “we have to implement the most substantive security measures first so that we can see how much security we really need.” This idea is nothing new. Since the inception of government, citizens of lands across the globe have been willing to give up a great deal of their freedom to their governments and leaders in exchange for the promise of safety and security. On the outside, this seems to make sense. Safety is a primary concern of every individual. The guarantee of security, specifically of one’s life, liberty, and property, allows for all other goals and objectives within an individual’s life to take precedence. However, one needs to look no further than this Hill to find examples of the sacrifice of freedom could lead to a dissolution of those values that a group of people treasure most.

Let us extrapolate the idea of security and its purpose a little bit more. It is my belief that the purpose of security is to maintain stability—enforcing the rules of the game to create an even playing field for individuals to use their talents in order to enjoy a the fruits of their labor in a free manner.  Merriam-Webster defines freedom as: “an absence of undue restrictions and an opportunity to exercise one’s rights and powers.” Thus, it seems to make sense that if the purpose of security is to allow for “freedom” to persist, that freedom should be more highly valued commodity, particularly in our society. The truth is that we do not need to necessarily go to the nuclear option in order to find out what the right number of security devices is for this campus. We, as rational thinkers, can fully consider what each option entails before we commit time, resources, and freedoms as costs for this marginal increase in security.

Evidence from studies regarding the implementation of security cameras and card scanners give us mixed evidence at best. The fact is that camera footage is really only valuable if it can be used in conjunction with prosecution to establish guilt, but we have no indication that the Honor Court would even use this footage to punish students that violate the Honor Code or Student Code of Conduct. Likewise, there is little doubt that larger public universities have a greater issue with rates of theft per capita than our campus. There will always be those amongst us that are not interested in following the rules of the Honor Code that we each sign upon our entrance to the College. In such cases, we trust our completely student-run justice system to deal with those ne’er-do-wells, whom they deem incompatible with our community after examining all pertinent evidence regarding the case. If there is a serious desire to change our policies and move in the same vein as larger public universities by installing card swipes on dormitory doors without any firm student-friendly policy in place, cameras all over this beautiful campus, and a policy of “community policing” that involves more consistent surveillance of students, there will be significant ramifications on the future of our college.

When we came to Hampden-Sydney, we decided that we wanted to live within a community a greater sense of freedom that centers upon the trust that each of us places in our brothers. The most secure community is not one that is constantly being watched from above by the eyes of higher ups, but one where individuals trust one another, whether they be students, staff, faculty members, administration, or campus security. When we implement these devices designed to provide security, which should protect freedoms that we value in this community, we deprive ourselves of those very freedoms. I think that Ben Franklin, friend of founding trustee James Madison, said it best: ”People willing to trade their freedom for temporary security deserve neither and will lose both.”

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