No More Fun of Any Kind! Don’t Send Your Kids to Syracuse

David Duprey

It’s not uncommon for the first day or two of college to be devoted to orientation activities. I remember the night after I moved into the dorm in my freshman year. We had to meet for a start-of-the-year dorm meeting and then we all traipsed down to the basement for a dance with the residents of the girls’ dorm next door. I was paired with a girl who wanted nothing to do with me. I was not exactly thrilled to be there myself. And the pizza was cold. I think our dorm leaders were told they had to do something, so they ordered pizza, put a mix tape in a boom box, and declared it to be fun.


Since then, it looks like the first few days of college are designed to offer actual fun and have a bit more substance than the sad little ritual that took place on my second day at school. Colleges have developed teams and plans that help students transition to their new lives and settle in. And these involve teams of students helping people move in, assisting them with acclimating to college life, answering questions, and planning fun activities for the incoming freshmen.

Back in August, Orientation Leader Eriendeep Uppal came up with an idea for her fellow team members at Syracuse University. Uppal decided to send teams of Orientation Leaders on a scavenger hunt around campus. Keep in mind that the event was completely optional, not compulsory. According to the website Fire, those who participated had a great time. The scavenger hunt involved taking pictures of oneself doing things in various locales on the Syracuse campus. Those included getting a photo of yourself kissing a teammate on the school’s kissing bench, doing a barrel roll down the Carnegie steps, and licking a statue of Abraham Lincoln. Okay, I’ll admit that the last one sounds a little weird and is probably not the most hygienic of activities, given the habits of pigeons. But it is college after all, and weird ideas abound. And at least the students weren’t throwing paint on the statue or tearing it down. So there’s that.

And…cue the threatening music. All of this was a bit much for the administration. The school leaders declared the activity to be hazing and suspended Uppal until the summer. She was banned from the campus itself along with any facilities associated with the university. If she needs to be on campus for any reason, she has to get permission from the “Interim Director of Community Standards or designee.”


The school’s rationale was that participants could have felt emotionally confused over the kissing thing, despite the fact that the school has a Kissing Bench. A bench for kissing. That’s what you are supposed to do there. The administration was also concerned that rolling down the steps could cause injury and licking a statue could pose health hazards. And it has a point about the last two, but again, no one was forcing these people to do those things. And back in the day before your average college student was so uptight they could eat coal and expel diamonds, many undergrads didn’t get bent out of shape about those things. The school officials could have said, “Okay, no more rolling or licking things,” and left it at that. But no, they suspended Uppal. The school says that there was a potential for harm, and the event “caused a substantial risk to the mental and physical health of the fellow OLs.”

For Uppal to return to school this summer, she has to prepare personal statements about what she has learned from the incident, what she has done with her time off, and — what is perhaps one of the most arrogant requirements — “articulating with specificity the ways in which you will contribute to building a positive community at Syracuse University if you are permitted to return.”

Specifically, Uppal must submit a transcript for any classes she attended outside of Syracuse and/or pay stubs indicating that she had a job. As of Dec. 7, Uppal had to begin at least 45 hours of verified, unpaid community service. She also needs to provide three written character references that could not be from friends, family members, or anyone associated with Syracuse.


But wait, there’s more. Uppal must also view a TED Talk by Ruth Chang called “How to Make Hard Choices.” She must then write a 2-3 page reflection paper on what she gleaned from the video. Incidentally, the paper must be “double-spaced with 1-inch margins in 12-point font.”  And, she must also watch the presentation, “Components of Hazing, Forms of Hazing, and Hazing Culture and Problem,” and write another reflection paper using the same format as dictated above. Then (no, she won’t be done) she must use the information in that presentation to create an anti-hazing program specific to Syracuse.

Why didn’t they just give her the chair? She didn’t even get the benefit of double secret probation.

Related: Dear Young People: College Is Lame. Get a Job.

Again, this event was completely voluntary and a good time was had by all who participated. Her fellow leaders had nothing but praise for Uppal, including her work ethic and her care and compassion for incoming students. If I were Uppal, the only paper I would send to Syracuse would be of the bathroom tissue variety. But she has decided to appeal, and Fire has submitted a letter to the University on her behalf.

One must wonder if Uppal and her fellow students had torn the statue off of its pedestal, taken a sledgehammer to the Kissing Bench, and sprayed graffiti on the Carnegie steps in the name of fighting privilege and patriarchy, would the response have been the same? Probably not. One thing is certain: The students at Syracuse are being taught a very important lesson in authority and compliance. A lesson that they will take with them after college and enforce on the rest of the world, when and if they can. That is what is being taught at Syracuse.



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