Spring break (and how to leave it there)
One of the things that happen when you get older is the number of occasions where you can just “let go” get fewer and fewer. I’m talking about going somewhere and letting go of all your cares and inhibitions and just being in the moment in a way you aren’t the rest of the year. Not everybody needs to have those moments, but for those who do, they result in memories and stories you share with your friends forever. As working adults we have vacations, but even then there aren’t really vacation spots where everyone is your age, has a similar job, and is there for the same reason. Simply put, there is nothing like spring break as a college student.
Whether you’re going to Panama City, Ft. Lauderdale, Cancun, Jamaica or anywhere else where you can have a drink served in a hollowed out coconut, you are there to let go. When you’re there you don’t have that class you hate, a project due soon, an RA who “is out to get you,” your ex living down the hall, or any other cares. You just have the moment, and whether that moment is dancing, drinking, going to some lame MTV event where they tell you “everybody make some noooiiiiise!,” or just presenting yourself as the person you want to be as you try to “date,” you simply aren’t thinking of your obligations to your school. That used to be fine, but it isn’t now. There are simply too many ways that you can get in trouble, and word of that trouble will reach your campus. I think alternative spring breaks are great, but let’s be realistic. Most students will want to let off steam during this time. Whether you’re at Freaknik or doing body shots in West Palm, you probably don’t want to have to explain what you did to your parents or professors, and you definitely don’t want to explain it to your judicial board. I have some suggestions to help keep you safe and trouble free. Some of these will just be good ethical suggestions, but here are some ways to make sure you leave spring break at spring break and don’t get in trouble when you come back.
- Don’t get arrested. This seems simple enough, but many spring break locations have been cracking down on underage drinking, public drunkenness, “disturbing the peace,” and other “crimes” that they used to ignore. No matter where you’re going you should make sure you know the laws around whatever you and your friends plan on doing. Some places will hold you accountable for whatever happens in areas within your control (e.g., if your friend has marijuana in your hotel room, you are considered in possession of that marijuana.) That fake ID? The handle of Jim Beam you brought with you? Jail. Public urination? That could be considered “exposing yourself” and be treated like a sex crime. I’m not saying that any of these things will happen, but take 10 minutes to understand the “nono”s of where you’re going and make sure you don’t do any of them. Oh, and ALWAYS be polite to the police, hotel employees, and bouncers. A lot of them want nothing more than to teach some “smart ass” college kid a lesson.
- Do NOT post photos or allow yourself to be tagged in any posted photos. Facebook has been around a long time, but you would be amazed at how many people still allow themselves to be photographed using a bong, passed out surrounded by beer bottles, with an ecstasy grin, an in other incriminating photos. While I do not believe that you should be held accountable for those actions, many schools will treat those photos like evidence and bring you up on charges for the actions. This is especially true at any school with an honor code, but most schools have some policy that allows them to address “off campus” behavior as if it took place on campus. So check Twitter, Tumblr, Facebook, and every other place you share your life to make sure you know what’s being shared.
- Remember that intoxication makes consent impossible in almost every jurisdiction, so make sure that what you think is “fun” is not actually “assault.” While not everybody you have sex with when they are drunk will think of it as sexual assault, the risk that you will commit a crime and, more importantly, ruin someone’s life is always there. When I used to do programming for men around sexual assault and the issue of consent I talked a lot about this issue. The push back would be that it wasn’t fair that they could be somewhere that people were to hook up and if they chose the wrong person she would then say she was sexually assaulted. Forgetting for a second that the world doesn’t actually work that way and there are statistically fewer false reports of sexual assault than there are any other crimes, this is REALLY easy to avoid. As a rule of thumb, if you are drunk or if you think the person with whom you’re making out with is drunk, stop. Say to that person “look, I think we’re too drunk to go any further, but after we get some sleep…” If that person is not willing to fool around the next day, there is a REALLY good chance that you were about to commit sexual assault. If they are, you know you didn’t! (Also, if they aren’t, being known as the person who wanted to hook up when you and/or she was not wasted is not going to hurt your reputation with other people.)
Spring break should be a blast, and I’m not saying that you have to be a saint. What I am suggesting is that you minimize the risks when you’re there and make sure that there aren’t any when you return to campus.