Volume 94, Issue 76

Wednesday, February 7, 2001


Editorial Board 2000-2001

Know when to say when

Editorial Cartoon

Know when to say when

University of British Columbia engineering students, under the cover of darkness, executed a bold prank on Sunday night in the state of California.

Come sunrise on Monday, the residents of San Francisco were surprised to find the frame of a Volkswagen Beetle suspended from the Golden Gate Bridge. The Beetle was painted with a Canadian flag and was branded with a large "E."

In response to the prank, the dean of UBC's engineering faculty said that there would be trouble since the school's administration feels the stunt may have damaged the university's reputation, there may likely be sanctions.

Can UBC justifiably punish its students for their actions in another country?

The joke was part of the 20th anniversary of engineering week at UBC. The suspended beetle symbolizes the apex of a progression of these sorts of pranks which have been committed regularly over the past 20 years.

But UBC isn't the only campus in Canada that falls victim to this brand of comedy. There has been a general toughening of student conduct rules at most campuses. University administrations say they are just trying to nip these things in the bud, that these gags need to be curbed so they don't get out of hand.

But where does the university administration draw the line? What type of conduct is punishable?

Whether or not students have obligations to their university to act as ambassadors wherever they go is debatable. And while there are mischief-makers pulling off shenanigans that have the potential to harm a university's reputation, there are also many students doing great things that enhance their alma mater's reputation.

Had these four engineers created an awesome space-age bridge, or some similar feat of engineering prowess, wouldn't UBC attempt take some credit in order to bolster its namesake?

Some would say UBC's engineers' daring display deserves credit. In a weird way, it showcases the skills that UBC's engineering faculty teaches. This begs the question: Who provides whom with the reputation? Does the institution provide the students with an image, or is it the other way around?

There is no doubt that a university's greatest asset is its reputation. And while universities strive to uphold a credible, esteemed name to all who inquire, UBC's administration must bear in mind that sanctions can backfire. Just take a look at what the hastened verdict did to Western's case of engineering tomfoolery last year.

Take the good with the bad. For as long as there are young people in this world, there will be suspensions of both the academic and the automobile variety.

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