TV or not TV? One student's proposal sparks furious debate

My adventure began a few weeks ago when I approached the president of Marlboro College about the possibility of funding part of a satellite dish for our TV-less campus. (Yes, you heard me right, our tiny, little campus here in southern Vermont lacks cable and any kind of decent reception.)

He did me one better by offering to pay for televisions and satellite dishes for three of our seven dorms. It was a nice idea, but he wouldn't have the final say.

As a senior at Marlboro, I've become accustomed to the idea that students here have the power to make significant changes on the campus -an empowerment rare at most schools. However, at Marlboro all decisions about community life must be passed at our monthly Town Meeting where everyone has an equal vote: students, faculty, and staff.

When I transferred from Penn State (pop. 35,000) to Marlboro (around 350), dealing with the drastically reduced student population was not what I found most difficult - it was the lack of television. Sure, I heard rumors about there being no TV, but c'mon, I didn't think any college campus could survive without "The Simpsons." But the rumors were true and the fact that most Marlboro students prided themselves on the lack of television meant I had to sacrifice my beloved football games.

After two years, I was ready to make a stand; I was going to be the person to bring television to Marlboro.

Upon entering Town Meeting last month, I was hopeful - not confident, but hopeful. I looked forward to a spirited debate. Although I was introduced to a spattering of boos, I tried to keep my composure. But as soon as I began to speak, a crack of lightening from an impending storm struck, and the power flashed out, inspiring a chorus of cheers among my fellow students. The lights and order were restored, but I knew the fight was lost.

Despite my Captain Ahab-like feeling of clinging to a sinking ship, I offered up my proposal and tried to hang on for the ride. My opponents wasted no time. The moderator could not call on them fast enough. They hailed TV as the root of all evil and everything that's wrong with society today.

Some students claimed they wouldn't be able to help themselves: if we had TV, they'd watch it all the time. But, hey, what about self-control? Others argued that there were more productive things to be doing. I agree; no one is stopping you from doing them. I think having TVs covered in dust because they are never used would make more of a statement about how the Marlboro community views TV than its banishment from campus.

I briefly mentioned that TV was in no way worse than the Internet and I thought students were going to tar and feather me. One student claimed all television inspires is "consumerism." At least with TV people have to leave their houses to consume. With the advent of the Internet, that is no longer even required.

While I agree that television isn't the perfect medium, what is? Why not have the choice? When used in a responsible way, TV can be a great source of current events, weather, and plain old entertainment.

Students tend to shut themselves up from the outside world here on our little mountain top, and TV could help bridge that gap. My literature professor, Geraldine Pittman, says, "we do a disservice to students if we don't keep in touch with that larger world."

I wasn't asking for mandatory TV hours, just the option to watch if I wanted to. But before I knew what hit me, my motion was thunderously defeated.

So I will miss the bulk of the football season and the World Series (again). On the other hand, the staff and faculty here at Marlboro, who were surprisingly supportive of my cause, have made several offers to have me over on the weekend. All hope is not lost.

*Rich Sobiecki is a senior at Marlboro (Vt.) College, who is majoring in biology and environmental studies.

(c) Copyright 1999. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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