Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Burdens of Responsibility

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As I attend the University of Hawaii at Manoa, I reside on the on-campus residence halls, particularly Hale Mokihana. In fact, more than a thousand students, everyday, tread home from school to these dorms. If you ask anyone, living there is no were close to being at home. One thing that most students dread are the rules and regulations, simply because it puts a limitation on his or her freedom of being independent. What exactly are these rules? What consequences are put into effect when these rules are violated?


These questions and more have been answered in the “Rules and Regulations” and “Disciplinary Actions” Sections in the University of Hawaii Residence Hall Handbook, which is given out during the check-in period. This light-weight, spiral handbook is very eye-catching to the readers with its decorative cover and handy campus map on the back. The facts are presented under specific bold topics, in a well organized layout, which makes it easy to read and follow. Many students, like myself, use this handbook for the convenient calendar organizer located towards the back of the book.


This manual is a compilation written by the staff of the Student Housing Department. However, the person responsible for the overall contents is Darryl Zehner, Director of Student Housing. He speaks on behalf of the University of Hawaii Student Housing Institution. The staff’s credibility is very reliable and trustworthy because of their obligation to create a safe and trouble free environment. The authors are more knowledgeable about the topic then the readers.


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This document serves a dual purpose to answer any question a resident may have concerning the policy and to provide a broader understanding of how the residents are expected to behave. The need for this document was to set a system of order so that chaos would be prevented. It prohibits illegal actions and objects that may put the lives of others in danger. It is still widely used today for its effectiveness as well as usefulness in the past, controlling resident conduct. A set of rules is common and appropriate for situations involving many people. The rules and disciplinary actions suggest that no matter what social status and class standing one may be in the same set of rules apply to everyone in the same hall. Other potential readers may be prospective residents, parents, or visitors. They too can get a taste of what the on-campus setting is like by referring to this document.


Not only are the rules and regulations relevant in order to establish a safe living atmosphere, but everyone can also benefit from it. For me, I am glad that they enforce the “Quiet Hours” policy because it helps promote my academic success by placing me in an environment easy to study in. Others who are having problems with people causing trouble can use this book as an important tool to notify the authorities on one’s wrongdoings. Rules, including no vandalism and harassment, have played important roles in creating a safe atmosphere respective of others rights. This document is also very advantageous to the writers. The importance of it being a written document is that the rules are set in stone. There is no room for excuses to explain why someone has violated these rules. Although this document is not a contract, people must abide to the contents and cannot dispute or contest it.


Although the rules and disciplinary actions have relevance and some strengths, many questions arise resulting on issues that can be debated about the contents. Certain rights as well as imposed responsibility seem to be on the line for the residents. Also, specific rules are questioned to be unfair. The writers do not offer any explanation to why these rules are implemented. The reasons are usually obvious, however, there are times when it is unclear. “Why must the flyers and poster be first approved by the hall director?” This particular case exemplifies the vagueness found throughout the guide.


In situations of vandalism where the individual does not come forward to claim responsibility, everyone on the floor is punished and must pay a fee of ten dollars to the damage that is done. This group assessment should not be applied seeing that it is unreasonable to those who are innocent. It is also said that possessing a water jug is prohibited for it may be a common source container to hold alcohol. This irrational regulation is an example that limits one’s rights at the dorms. Imposed responsibility such as cleaning our rooms as well as checking in our guests seems to be a hassle. Everyone has to compromise on behalf of convenience.


The writers’ language and style plays a significant role in informing the students about the rules and its consequences when violated. When explaining the regulations the sentences are plain and precise in order to eliminate any uncertainty or ambiguity. Their meticulous criteria such as having a microwave or refrigerator is narrowed down to a specific condition. It is obvious that the writers of this section had clarity in mind. The tone is very distant and formal between the writer and the readers. However, the next section describing the disciplinary actions are obscure because of its wordiness and usage of big terms. It states, “Whether a student denies or does not refute the alleged policy(s) violations, the housing staff will make a decision based up the preponderance of evidence” (p. 1). The vocabulary is very elevated and written in an official and legalistic tone for the purpose of confusing the readers. It seems as if the author clarifies the rules but disguises the consequences so that those who break a rule will misconstrue the repercussions. From personal experience, sometimes people don’t violate a rule simply because the penalty is too harsh. Because the writers’ intent is for the readers to obey the rules, there is an abundance of denotative meanings rather then connotative meanings. The content is meant to be straight forward with no underlying meanings. There are no room for semantics.


The two sections in the handbook have been written very effectively to illustrate to the readers the authors’ central points. They have created sentences both plain and complicated to convey their intended effect. Although not blatantly asked, the contents have questioned my own values, assumptions, and beliefs about on-campus life. Given the distant relationship we have with the authors and the limitations we possess as students, the book still functions as a reference guide. By possessing both positive and negative traits, the rules and regulations are communicated as being more complex in both an individual and communal level than what the book deems it to be.





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