Halloween with the folks: awkward or awesome?

As an October chill creeps over campus, Colby students are beginning to prep for winter. With Patagonia fleeces out and the first round of midterms coming to a close, the first cold-weather holiday approaches: Halloween.

Colby students have been known to celebrate Halloween with an assortment of creative shenanigans. In 2016, at the height of the attacking-clown crisis, an unknown student in Williams placed clown puppets all over the dorm, giving some residents a bit of a scare during drowsy morning walks to the bathroom.

One of those students was Tahj Brown, a sophomore, who remembers another incident as well. “On frat row, some guys took a pumpkin outside a girl’s dorm and threw it out the second floor boy’s bathroom window,” he said, “Then he lit fireworks from inside of it.”

This year, the mood on campus may be slightly different. If a pumpkin explodes at a party, there’s a good chance someone’s parents will be watching. The coinciding dates of Homecoming and Halloween weekend has generated some buzz on campus, and students are approaching it from different angles.

“I’m showing them the door at 6 p.m.,” said one Hillside dweller (who asked that his name be removed for fear his parents would pick up a copy of The Echo). Others were quick to point out the common parent’s weekend sight of fathers at apartment parties, presumably attempting to relive their college glory days.

This isn’t the first time an administrative scheduling decision has left Colby students scratching their heads. Last year’s Accepted Students Weekend took place on 4/20, a day used by many to celebrate marijuana. Visiting high school students are generally supervised and told to avoid any drugs or alcohol, a prospect unlikely to have taken place on that particular day in April (although some freshmen will cheerily recount that weekend as a deciding factor in their college decision-making process).

However, it’s likely that the unease caused by this scheduling conflict actually has nothing to do with Halloween (with the exception of the need to hide one’s sexy nurse costume from the folks). What’s more likely is that many Colby students will see two spheres of their lives, kept carefully separate, suddenly collide—a stressful possibility, with or without costumes.

When students step on campus for the first time, they enter a culture of moral, emotional and social chaos. They no longer have family and old friends nearby to tell them how to proceed, so they set their own boundaries.

But sometimes, students draw a line between right and wrong that would hardly sit well with parents who foot the bill. Although this may not completely describe Colby, national statistics create a narrative: 39 percent of college students have gone binge drinking at least once in the previous month. Half of them use illicit drugs. One in four students has an STD, according to one survey, while another shows a discrepancy between how male and female students understand sexual relationships: 66 percent of women say they are in a “committed” partnership, while only 38 percent of men say so.

It’s often a culture shock for incoming students, nevermind parents; and as with the rest of the NESCAC and other schools across the nation, the parties taking place over Halloween will hardly be representative of Colby’s high-ranking academic culture.

For every dad who mills about the apartments, cracking jokes and reminiscing about a time at Colby long before the NESCAC story, there will be another set of parents who still believe little Johnny is spending his Saturday nights playing trivial pursuit in the Mary Low Coffeehouse.

And parents, to an extent, have a right to be concerned about the Colby “play harder” mentality. The regular sightings of ambulances transporting students on weekends could be alarming to an outsider; so could the frankly blatant disregard for the “smoke-free campus” and hard alcohol ban.

Colby’s party culture can be remarkably safe, but is still flooded with issues most students—and probably administrators—would prefer not be displayed to parents or trustees. Even some of Colby’s best efforts to create a better weekend environment for students may not be living up to administrator’s hopes. The ban on hard liquor aims to reduce binge drinking, but research on whether such bans are effective is limited. A survey conducted by The Dartmouth (Dartmouth College’s student newspaper) found that 85 percent of students said they had consumed hard alcohol since Dartmouth’s ban took effect, and it’s likely that among drinkers at Colby, the numbers are similar. There’s also the dangers of pre-gaming with hard alcohol behind closed doors to hide the illicit substances from security enforcing the ban; drinking hard alcohol heavily in such a short time can only contribute to weekly ambulance sightings.

Although it’s quite likely Colby will not be handling a PR disaster after Halloween weekend, Colby students do have a history of bad behavior surrounding special events, on and off campus. In 2004, when then-President Adams announced Doghead had been cancelled and students would be punished for participating, mass vandalism broke out on campus. Adams sent an email detailing the destruction: “students broke thousands of dollars worth of windows, threw a chair out of a dorm window and through Associate Dean Cecilia Stanton’s windshield, overturned a valuable outdoor sculpture at the museum, did other damage, and chanted obscenities on the library steps.” Even further back, when frats were first eliminated at Colby, angry fraternity brothers held a bonfire and destroyed much of their own furniture on frat row. In May of 2016, over graduation weekend, a party resulted in an arrest, a dumpster fire, and objects thrown at emergency responders. In 2013, students were charged with forgery and possession of alcohol by consumption after they rented a school bus for an off-campus party and were then pulled over for speeding.

Although crazy incidents have yet to come to light this academic year, the Echo has already published articles discussing huge numbers of transports, especially among the freshman class.

Considering all of these incidents as a whole, Colby still has a remarkably safe weekend culture. Students drink and party in an environment where sick students are easily and efficiently provided with the help they need, and it’s always safe to walk home at night. But as long as there exists something to be ashamed about, students will continue to marvel at the perceived audacity of the College’s scheduling.

And outside of this shame? It’s not quite as bad as being transported, but many Colby students would be hard pressed to tell their parents about the vodka under their roommate’s bed, their impromptu hookup, or their slightly risqué Halloween costume. Unfortunately (and regardless of Halloween) Colby will never be able to prevent the uncomfortableness of letting one’s parents into their social life right at the age when Colby students are doing their best to become adults. It’s an awkward, tumultuous process.

So hide the liquor, hide the costume, and take your parents out to dinner. What they don’t know can’t hurt them, right?