Moral Issues at University

Sometimes, on rare nights when hazy clouds obstruct a thick autumn moon and the corpses of leaves skitter across Wilfrid Laurier’s well-trodden pathways, you can witness a fascinating primeval struggle, if you know where to look.

Watch the masses, swallowed sober and regurgitated drunk, spill out across University Avenue after last call. Watch the patios on King Street and the dank depths of Phil’s. Watch the porch parties, the keggers and the Starlight concert crowds. Watch the nightlife.

What you’ll see, if you happen to possess a keen eye for the subtle, is the tug and wrench of fresh-faced morality, stressed and under siege. You’ll see a boy taking home a girl from the bar, half carrying her because she’s so utterly wasted in her cupcake skirt.

Resist the urge to check out her rack, even if it’s nice, and focus on the battleground: the wearied expression on the guy’s face which is hopefully screaming the question “Is this right? Am I supposed to be doing this?” It’s a moral dilemma and the decisions made here are paramount.

Sometimes the face will be stoneset, resolved and jaded, intent on the task of schlocking this chick no matter what, and this is sad. The battle is already over and the behavioral dictator is firmly established, ruling his Banana Republic moral island without dissent. The guy may end up with rape charges or a relationship or whatever, but there is no longer any question about right and wrong in his mind, no struggle in his actions. And the struggle is what’s interesting.

Moral questioning thrives in the university experience. You may make all kinds of decisions about sex, drug use and alcohol consumption from the safety of your parent-owned-and-operated home, but once under the wholly notorious influence of your peers, things can change rapidly. Remove punishment. Remove direct consequence. Feed your conscience ten shots of tequila and see if the precepts you learnt in Sunday School still hold true.

University is a testing ground for our morality; a place which isn’t exactly the “real world” but offers many of its unmitigated freedoms. It’s a place where everything you know can be called into question, where you can become a new person entirely if you aren’t careful. It’s a place where good and evil can flip-flop time and again. It’s a sidewalk of newly laid cement, where the casual imprints you make will harden and become part of your life for years to come.

And this is why each struggle is so fascinating to watch—individuals testing their boundaries, gradually building the fences that will corral them in the future. Is cheating okay? Having sex with passed out girls? Smoking the bong? Chances are that you’ll find out how you truly feel during university.

I am not Satan. My job is not to tempt you, to hold up your status as a postsecondary student as an excuse for you to go morally bankrupt and make sweet love to the llamas in Waterloo Park after shooting yourself full of heroin. I mean, that might be cool and all, but respect should definitely be accorded to those who test themselves and find that their old values still hold firm.

I couldn’t care less whether you are good or evil, the biggest bastard in the world or some kind of freakishly shiny saint. It’s all relative until you break the law (and get caught). It’s the struggle that’s important, and it’s the struggle that makes university such an important time in our lives.

I just think it’s funny to watch.