Conformity obstructs capability,
Neutralizes students' talents

A few years ago, one of my English professors discussed the "herding technique" implemented on college campuses. He joked how universities around the country strive to mold students into the status quo.

Often times the campus environment is so controlled it squelches creativity instead of fostering imagination.

Administrators at most universities, including Texas A&M, often seem to discourage students from taking a stand or acting outside an arbitrary set of rules. College students should have the opportunity to learn through experimentation and possible failure.

How often have students pursued a wonderful idea, only to stop when someone said it couldn't be done? More times than we'd like to admit.

When a group of Aggies decided to circulate a petition calling for a student referendum, people told them it couldn't be done. Despite the predictions, over 5,000 signatures have been collected. This proves it can be done.

If these students had given up in the face of opposition, nothing would have changed. However, they were willing to go out and prove the cynics wrong. Unless the Judicial Board disqualifies hundreds of signatures, these students will have forced the first student referendum at A&M.

I was reminded of this last week when I met Stan Ridgely, who has become a legend on the Duke University campus.

Several years ago, Stan founded a campus newspaper and fought several legal battles with Duke University. Even though Ridgely is a celebrated figure and his newspaper, the Duke Review, is now distributed around the country, he wishes he had made a bigger impact on the university.

"I wish I were an undergraduate again, just for one year," he said.

Ridgely told me he spent most of his college career trying not to make waves or upset university officials. During his senior year, he realized how much liberty he really had. Duke officials told him how to publish his paper, where to distribute it and what to print. By the time he learned those rules could not be enforced and held no consequences, he had already wasted several years abiding by the constricting regulations.

Some students have overcome the constraints imposed on them. The students who initiated the yell leader petition and the first non-regs to run for yell leader had to fight against tremendous odds. By challenging themselves to do what was labeled impossible, they attained goals no one expected.

Of course, we need rules, and there is great strength in unity and conformity. However, there is a time when leadership and innovation are necessary.

This is why Aggies have been such valuable members of the armed forces throughout history. While former Corps members can take orders, they can also make decisions and take control of a situation when necessary. While others wait for someone to take charge, Aggies have been able to recognize when a situation calls for leadership, and then provide it.

A university should foster these leadership skills as well as academic capability.

On the A&M campus, we are subject to various laws, but University officials have created even more regulations in an attempt to maintain a proper learning environment.

Student organizations on campus must abide by a long list of rules. The University requests a list of all club members, organization's fliers must meet several guidelines, and any fund-raising letter must be submitted to University officials before being mailed. These are only a few of the regulations filling five manuals issued to every student organization. Any organization not complying with these guidelines is subject to fines, loss of privileges or suspension.

These rules may be overwhelming, but students should not be discouraged by them.

Students should evaluate their beliefs and decide if and when they will stand for something.

I'm not advocating civil disobedience. I would never suggest a student revolution either. I am encouraging personal initiative. Find something you believe in, create a goal to improve an aspect of campus you care about and don't let pessimists discourage you.