Rolling in the Girls’ Room

Yesterday, the following conversation occurred on my personal Facebook page.

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Siobhan: Am I an old fuddy-duddy because I just emailed Security about the two boys and their girlfriend sitting on the counter in the women’s washroom rolling a massive joint?  Am I less of a fuddy-duddy because, after I kicked them out and found them still hovering around the door as I was leaving, I warned them that I was going to call Security so they really didn’t want to go back in there?  I actually hesitated about it, but my rationale, as I phrased it to Security, was, “Please patrol the bathrooms – a lot of teenage girls do not want to walk into the washroom and discover two boys and a pile of weed on the counter.”

J: Kind of?  Oh wait, there were boys in the women’s washroom? That’s different. The joint I’d just let pass, but that intrudes on the comfort of everyone. You made the right call.  That said, were I to catch students rolling a joint in other circumstances, I’d tell them to lose it immediately and let them know it’s their last chance to learn to do that kind of thing where they won’t get caught. It demands a response, but I’d hesitate to bring security into it since it in no way threatens the safety of students, faculty, or employees.

Siobhan: It’s the total lack of common sense that floors me. I mean, half the female teachers on that floor use that washroom, not to mention tons of students who could easily report them. What did they think would happen?  J, fair enough, but it does threaten some students’ SENSE of safety. A lot of girls would feel very uncomfortable walking in on such a scene, and might hesitate to use that washroom if they knew such things were likely to be going on in there. If students know security guards check washrooms, they’re less likely to do stuff in there that puts other students in awkward positions.

J: Sure — I see it as totally a part of teaching to teach kids to watch their asses if they’re going to do something like that. However, I feel like there is too much appeal to top-down authority when it comes to marijuana. I’m not at all trying to argue that drugs or alcohol have any place on campus, but I’m concerned about resorting to a reaction that places students in a position to be punished well outside the realm of what that sort of stupid, clueless behaviour deserves. A stern talking-to and a threat, for sure, but security I’m uneasy about, particularly because it could lead to expulsion (and in some insane cases, criminal charges, which over marijuana constitutes a total abuse of authority to me).   Also, I’d like to state here that I don’t do drugs and find potheads irritating as anything. It’s just the issue of authority over soft-drug use and the execution thereof that leaves me very uneasy.

Siobhan: J, yes, I totally get that, and that’s why I hesitated. The fact is, if two girls had been in there rolling a joint, even as blatantly as these people, I probably would have ignored it, although the best reaction would have been to chew them out for being stupid, as you say. It was the boys just casually hanging out in the girls’ room with their grass hanging in everyone’s faces that made me feel like it was appropriate to contact security – and the concerns you mention that made me warn the kids that security was coming. I’m not sure what I’ll do if it happens again, but I certainly can’t see myself calling the dogs on some kids just for being pothead idiots – it was the total arrogance of it all that made it seem somehow dangerous.

J: Agreed.

P: Nope – doing your job dear. If the rules forbid this, which they do, whether you agree or not is irrelevant…at least in my book it is. I used to tell my students that I didn’t care much for certain rules but because they were there, I would respect them, and that I expected the same from them…I would have emailed security too!

J: P, with all due respect, I must disagree strongly. CEGEP, in my opinion, is not a place for teaching blind obedience to the rules, particularly rules one personally disagrees with. If a student feels the anti-drug, anti-alcohol rules are unjust, I’d prefer to see them work through the reason for those rules’ existence and attempt to find the means to challenge them then to have them obey for no reason other than the rules’ authority.  This has made my job difficult with students at times, since I’ve never been able to tell students, “Do it because I say you have to,” but I feel that it provides them a more humane education and presents them with more challenging ideas at an instance that may be the last chance they have to be challenged like that.  (I also think the vast majority of students would conclude that the rules against drugs and alcohol on campus are for everyone’s benefit and thus not be able to excuse their own flouting of those rules.)

M: Oh dear, I feel compelled to wade into this now. As a CEGEP teacher and a parent of a CEGEP student, I think you absolutely did the right thing, Siobhan. As for J, your approach is refreshing but very hard to manage. If the students in question were in one of Siobhan’s classes, she could have used the situation as a teaching moment, I suppose, and have a discussion about developing a critical approach to following rules. As they were just some random students, I think Siobhan’s approach was right on.  I sometimes compare school to a workplace with my students. Behave at school as you would in a work situation. Unless they are training to be jazz musicians or artists or beat poets, most students get the message. (I just thought of the poor teacher who will have stoned students on her class later that day…)

K: Siobhan, I would have done the same as you (including warning them about security). If they continued their activities after such a warning, it seems to me they are basically asking to be caught. On the other hand, I would probably make an issue out of students smoking in a bathroom period. Some people have asthma, others prefer not to have to inhale second-hand smoke, whether it is tobacco or pot. That rule has been put into place to protect others, and so should be enforced.

Siobhan: K, they weren’t smoking, just rolling – if they were planning to smoke there, then yes, I agree, they would have deserved absolutely anything that came down on them!

B: I think you can question the reason for a rules existence and, at the same time, respect other people’s wish to pee in peace.

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What are your thoughts on this?  What would you do if you were a college teacher and came across such a scene in a bathroom?  Would you handle it differently than I did?