Only drastic action can solve Serendipity safety concerns

Guilford College should not hold Serendipity this year.

But it will anyways.

Since last year’s Serendipity, students and administrators have tried to find the solutions to the annual problems associated with the weekend: drinking, drunk driving, drug abuse, assault and everything in between.

We know that Guilford deals with these same issues every year. Students participating in dangerous activities put both themselves and bystanders at risk. Guilford faces the prospect of a liability lawsuit if any activity results in a tragedy.

“The event is great to build community, and it would be awesome to continue (it), but I still understand the concerns coming from administrators,” said José Oliva, sophomore and president of Community Senate.

Unless major changes happen in Serendipity this year, the College will cancel all future Serendipities.

“For over four decades this has been our tradition, and it is in serious jeopardy,” said co-founder of Serendipity Esther Hall ’74. “It rests on the shoulders of Guilford students; not just the planners of the events, but every student.”

Guilford needs that complete culture shift to happen within the next six months. A change of that magnitude would probably take four years of consecutive changes to allow for student turnover.

The College does not have the time to make a comfortable transition from the current Serendipity culture to a safer one. Even now, the current plan to solve the Serendipity issues has minimal structure and planning, making it unlikely to work under a crushing time constraint. No one knows how effectively the measures will increase safety or how well the message will spread across the Serendipity crowd.

Delaying Serendipity for one year would make it easier for the current culture of Serendipity to change into a safer one. It would minimize safety and liability concerns without the college immediately threatening to eliminate Serendipity indefinitely.

But the College already missed this opportunity. Guilford booked the bands for the concerts. Guilford committed to having Serendipity this year well before any concrete plan existed to make the weekend safer.

Of course, an overwhelming number of students would scream at a decision to cancel Serendipity for a whole year. Even more, however, would rally against a decision to end Serendipity forever.

“We’re Guilford, and we wanted to be very upfront with the students about the issues and about the problems and not just pull the rug out from under them,” said Interim Vice President for Student Affairs and Dean of Students, Jen Agor. “We wanted to give them the opportunity to change. (We) hope that it’s effective and we don’t end up regretting it.”

Right now, Guilford has a bundle of scattered ideas to save Serendipity. If everything goes according to the current plan, we can prepare for Serendipity and hope that a grab bag of ideas to promote wellness can create a total culture shift in half a year.

“This will probably take four to six years to result in the change that we all want to see,” said President of Guilford College Jane Fernandes.

The College should not make sufficient student safety a result for 2019. The culture of Serendipity can change, but it will take enormous steps that the College has not made yet.

Guilford should not continue to put student safety at risk for the sake of a school tradition. If Guilford fails to make the weekend a safe environment, the College should bear responsibility for whatever happens.

The culture of, “I wouldn’t usually do something that dangerous, but it’s Serendipity,” needs to change.

The College wouldn’t usually continue events associated with dangerous activity.

But it’s Serendipity.