The Daily Illini

Illegal in Illinois, unacceptable on campus

By Greg Caceres, Columnist

Crime is ever present on this campus. University massmails routinely indicate the student body’s failure to do what is right.

In these emails, a large variety of crimes are listed: from arson to drag racing, sexual and physical assault to murder, and even bomb threats. Granted, the University’s crime rates are not exclusively dependent on students; the surrounding community, though likewise victimized, can often play a role in campus crime.

Aside from these more tragic incidents, crime shows up in other areas which are often ignored by communications such as the massmail system. Events such as bar brawls or undercover busts for underage drinking aren’t usually heard of unless they trickle in from the people who saw them first hand.

And yes, there is precedent to reduce punishments for small crimes such as underage drinking or marijuana use. Even to legalize and encourage, if you think that’s beneficial. It’s especially compelling to want this when these illegal acts take more investment and care while they’re still illegal.

All the same, the law is the law. Until that changes by consent of the people, through representative governing, individuals need to learn to respect the regulations that are in place. With police present, no person would dare set off fireworks, drink underage or even litter for fear of the law.

So then, why do it when they’re not present? If there’s even a chance of getting caught, why risk it? Even if there isn’t a risk involved, that sort of blatant disregard says something about one’s character.

Trespassing, possession or distribution of narcotics, stealing products or information, public brawling, even loitering in a restaurant; these are things that are recognized and respected as law-breaking activities. Not simply for the sake of restriction, but for the general well-being of the population.

Even for those things that are separate from the public’s eye, individuals understand the repercussions of illegal activities, and are often made more aware of it when enrolled in school. For example, second-offense possession of marijuana results in dismissal from the University, even if criminal prosecution is not brought forward.

In my mind, rightly so. In fact, I’d extend this to most criminal activity on campus. This University is a privilege; it’s a privilege earned through hard work and dedication, but a privilege all the same. The education provided here is of the highest quality, and that demands the highest quality student in return. There’s no room for a student to break laws and disregard what is fair and good, so long as they want to retain the distinction of ‘highest quality.’

These things are all in good fun, I’m sure. And no doubt, those who make the mistake of putting fun over quality eventually look back and admit the wrong therein; I know I do, for at least one of the acts listed above. Still, a prevailing thought among our demographic is of immunity from repercussions. We’re too smart to get caught, too fast while running and too sly to be seen.

If trends in party-school attitudes are any indicator of how students might approach authority – if it’s representative of the amount of respect held for this institution – then the issue is much bigger than legality. I’ll be voting and cheering over certain deregulations, trust me. But so long as that day lies in the future and not the past, I’ll keep my money and actions where they belong: within the law and under my conscience.

Greg is a freshman in DGS.

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