Ethics and Humanity

Submitted on Mar 24, 2015 by Belinda M. Barham (Col ’84)

Do you believe that every individual has the right to voice their own truth without fear of ridicule, malice or hatred — even when they disagree with your truth? Example: Can we, as human beings, establish a safe forum of tolerance and respect to freely utter a response to a horrific photo or story? If not, what makes us unable to reign in our anger and hatred towards one another for expressing a view of truth that differs from our own?

Comments (7):

  1. Randolph Rains on said:

    We don’t need ABC police. Do they make you feel safer?

  2. Belinda M. Barham on said:

    Do we need alcohol at universities and colleges? Does alcohol edify us or add positive value to the purpose of such institutions? What does alcohol make us feel? Nothing (numb), smarter, braver, cooler, like we fit in with the pack?

  3. Mike on said:

    Dear Belinda: With all due respect to your views, do you really think that alcohol use and abuse at any college, and especially U.Va., will go away any time soon? Do you think that any amount of draconian legislation, rule, regulation or restriction will change, much less eliminate, the party culture? Prohibition has been tried and not only does it not work, it fostered outright contempt for the rule of law throughout all strata of society. The college experience is all about learning, both inside and outside the classroom, and as young people make the transition from adolescence to adulthood, they must of necessity learn how to be responsible for themselves and appreciate that certain behaviors have consequences. We’ve all been there, and for some of us, the lessons are learned more harshly.

    • Belinda M. Barham on said:

      Dear Mike: Thanks for your response. Yes, I truly believe with all of my heart that alcohol has its place, just not among those that have not yet reached the legal age for its consumption. While many things may be experienced and learned at college, I disagree with your statement that “for some of us, the lessons are learned more harshly.” Victims and even the perpetrators of crimes related to alcohol do not deserve such harsh and final lessons (including loss of life) — no one deserves that type of “lesson.” History is just that and it does not define our future. I also truly believe that students and anyone who wished to become involved could contribute in a collective and collaborative manner in order to create and foster an atmosphere of compassion and responsibility at colleges — with admission guidelines, mandatory related classes, role models and mentors — and, indeed, replace the “party culture” to which you refer with a beautiful culture that is more positive and evolved. It takes effort and imagination, but we can all try it together and see what happens. Students hunger for guidance and meaningful leadership and activities that do not involve alcohol. We can supply alternative activities that include ongoing charitable events and cross-cultural edification. Even just one life is worth more than all of the aimless and, oftentimes, illegal and illicit partying.

      • Mike on said:

        Belinda, I think your disagreement comes from a possible misunderstanding of the intent of my last sentence. I graduated a long time ago. I started attending U.Va in the late 1960s, with all the social turmoil that marked that decade. There were no mandatory related classes, no sensitivity training, etc. Everyone was on their own and set their own limits. Becoming extremely sick from a night of binge drinking taught me moderation. Of course no one deserves to be raped, beaten up or even killed to “learn a lesson”. However, self-control and personal responsibility come from within. The resources you cite can help, but there is no magic bullet.

        • Belinda M. Barham on said:

          Dear Mike: Thanks for the illumination on your era at UVA. It would be great to hear more details about what was going on during that time, but only if you desire to share them. I graduated a long time ago, too (1984), and rape, cocaine and a huge sense of “entitlement” permeated the air during my four years at UVA. The academics were just what I hoped them to be, but there was still a vast dichotomy between how men and women were treated/respected in my classes. As a first year student (and even beyond), there was no real “safe” place to socialize on or near grounds, in my experience. Remember, we did not have very many computers and there was no internet. Sports for women were few and far between (except for cheerleaders for football, which was not my thing) and there were limited volunteer gigs nearby. In fact, there weren’t many churches close to grounds at all. The main social focus was alcohol (and other drugs) and the Greek culture. I was the only woman in my dorm who did not rush (engage in the process to join a sorority). Also, the door to my dorm room in Bonnycastle did not even lock (broken) and no one seemed to care. We still had “Easters” which was mass chaos and unbelievable drunkenness and whatever else. There were many tragic incidents at fraternities (they were not regulated very strongly at that time either), there was “mud bowl” and lots and lots of parties where “who knows what” was being handed out to very young party goers (dry ice in trash cans filled with something and live gold fish, etc.). I had some good times and managed to finish my education, such as it was, despite having to gather what was left of my humanity after several traumas I endured during my four years due to the culture that existed at that time. Sadly, some of those practices and “do as you will” cultures persist today. Certainly, self control, discipline and other lessons are internal and individualized and have value, however, if the sheer number of parties and availability of alcohol and drugs outnumber the positive alternatives, it was/is no wonder that so many fell/fall pray to an untold number of those that are just “waiting” to grab whomever and whatever they can get and do whatever they can get away without a collective moral compass or center (that should exist in some form in our society in my opinion). It is time to say “enough” and look at the consequences and alternatives. Some things have changed, but I attended a family member’s graduation a few years ago and had to (literally) step over vomit in order to reach the on-grounds apartment where my relative lived. Gross. Embarrassing. Disgusting. While I am so proud of my relative’s academic and athletic accomplishments, the culture and the physical surroundings was so “dark” and “sick” that it frightened me — as if the lights were turned off and human decency and dignity was the exception rather than the rule. The phrase “what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas” aptly describes the culture — then and now. It has to change and evolve into something better, with purpose, care, love, kindness and light. That’s how it was for me, anyway, and I hope UVA gets better. Human beings deserve better in my opinion. One should not be frightened/terrified to walk to class, the library or to socialize. I hope lots of students come forward and report illicit and illegal activities — past and current. They may ease others from a lot of pain they have had to endure and save current and future students from falling prey to the traps that are all over the place at UVA — day and night. Humanity, ethics and academics should be at the forefront and not in the background.

  4. Nelson Kane` on said:

    I grew up in Charlottesville. The high school students thought they were emulating UVa students by having weekly drinking parties. This was back in 1975. It’s hard to believe now, but apparently parents bought kegs of beer for their sons, so that their sons could have drinking/music parties. Fortunately for myself, I was allergic to alcohol and could not even drink half a beer back then. Alcohol is as much a part of college as anything other than academics. I’m out of touch with high school students in Charlottesville, so I don’t know if these parties still exist. But there were reasons that students were drinking every weekend: in the 42 years since then, have things changed?