Rule Breaking and Reactions

A woman from my spin class leaves the building by a door that has a huge sign, “THIS IS A FIRE EXIT. USE FRONT DOOR.” My friend and I watch her, but we walk to the front of the gym and go out the front door. We wonder if we’re following rules because our kids have autism and are hard-wired to follow all rules. Maybe there is something wrong with us, too.

A neighbor back in our old town has too many people crashing in his house, so he lets the freeloaders park on his front lawn. The cops ticket cars left on the street overnight, and they don’t want that. So, they plop their Nissan on the grass in front of the house. Which is also illegal, but not a traffic matter, so there’s no cops to monitor that law at night.

We go for a walk at the park at the nearby mountain. There are other places to hike, but this is the closest. This location is also popular with dog walkers. There are huge signs at the front of the trail that say “ALL DOGS MUST BE ON LEASHES.” Nine of ten people obey that law, but there’s always one guy. Once, a guy with a huge dog roaming free knocked Ian down and licked his face. Ian, at the time, was terrified of dogs and screamed. I told the guy, “leash your dog.” He said, “leash your kid.”

Back in the early 90s when I first lived in my old neighborhood in Manhattan, traffic laws were strictly advisory. Drivers would go down sidewalks, triple park, roll through red lights, blast music out of the trunk at 2am. It was your job as a pedestrian to watch out for them and jump out of the way if necessary.

Kids monopolize a solemn college graduation by dancing, a student sleeps in a common area of the dorm, a family grills dinner by a lake in an area where they aren’t supposed to grill.

The last three incidents were in the news this week, because the reactions to the rule breaking were extreme and caught up in race.

Let’s take the reactions out of the equation for a minute and just talk about rules and laws. Every one of these incidents involves breaking a meaningful law, rule, or policy. Except for sleeping in the common room, because that is just the god given right of every graduate students. But leashing dogs, grilling in the right area, getting through a long and boring graduation in an orderly way are good things.

It’s super important to make sure that our laws and rules are sensible and just. It’s also super important to make sure that people who break the laws are punished equitably and reasonably. But I just want to make sure that we don’t toss out all rules all together.


85 thoughts on “Rule Breaking and Reactions

  1. This is an interesting discussion. Many of these behaviors seem forbidding because of problems caused if everyone did it. What is the meaningful law, rule or policy broken by parking on the grass? This seems like aesthetics, but I haven’t thought about it (and fining people or escalating if they don’t pay fines seems unreasonable to me for aesthetics). What problem is caused by the woman exiting through the fire door? Most are one way doors so you don’t have the issue of people sneaking in – so I am not sure what problem would be caused if everyone else did it as well?

    1. As far as the graduation ceremony – it seems to me there are many ways to allow dancing/celebrating, but they would require the school to make alterations to ensure the ceremony doesn’t go on too long. For example, multiple ceremonies instead. I think it would be worth while because I don’t see why we want to stop people celebrating. It is a big deal, let them celebrate.

      1. Re the graduation ceremony: exactly. Now, I sit through a long and annoying commencement every year. One year I brought paper and pencil and made my seatmates play hangman and categories with me. Some other colleagues have a thing where they rate shoes as the students walk down the stairs from the stage (we are usually sitting near there). For the last few years, since we’ve had majors in my department, I actually keep an eye out for them, so that whiles away the time somewhat. But it’s still painful.
        That said, LET THESE KIDS CELEBRATE. Sheesh.
        (At my commencement, we had so many students that each “college” would just stand up all at once and be graduated as a group.)

      2. I *knew* my colleagues and I couldn’t be the only people to pass time at commencement by rating shoes! (favorite category: “Bravest Heels”)

  2. When it comes to parking on the lawn, aesthetics ultimately translates to property values. So it isn’t just aesthetics. Invoking the power of the state to vindicate citizens’ financial interests is more compatible with a liberal political order than doing so for aesthetic reasons.

    I really don’t know why universities have such long graduations. At Emory, we all had to sit there while 1000 arts and sciences graduates were called one by one, even though no one cared about more than one of them. At Yale, they do it much more rationally, by blessing the graduates en masse and then sending them off to their residential colleges for individual presentations. So it’s only 100 individuals being processed, which is much more bearable. Plus the presenter (i.e., the college dean) actually knows each graduate–which in my case, occasioned an expression of extreme surprise on her part that I had actually managed to earn a diploma. I didn’t think to dance.

      1. I also don’t think it’s a good enough reason to send anonymous letters to neighbors. Like everybody is just born knowing that lilac bushes aren’t supposed to be 30 feet tall.

      2. A 30 foot tall lilac would be awesome! What is wrong with people to complain about that?

      3. It looked great in bloom, but after that it looked pretty rough.

        Anyway, the obvious issue to me with the parking is why can’t you park on the street at night?

  3. I slept in the office as a graduate student. Not often, but I was just so tired and it was 20 minutes walking to get home. That was back when my bones could take sleeping on a carpeted floor.

    Anyway, the local dog wars are something else. It’s not just dog people vs. kid people, but it’s also big-dog people vs. small-dog people. In an area of the park where leashes are required, an unleashed greyhound killed a leashed cockapoo (sp?). The NextDoor for the area is full of reports of where the vicious dogs are and replies about how the dog would just love you if only you’d change your behavior and waste a ridiculous amount of time getting friendly with every dog on the street. I’m not happy with the dog people now because a dog (on a leash) bit my ass a few weeks ago, not very painful but it did break the skin. The guy didn’t have tags on that dog, though he had a tag on his other dog. I made him let me take a picture of his driver’s as an alternative to calling 911 because there’s no way I’m going through all those shots without having pursued every option.

    1. On behalf of dog owners, I am sorry about the idiots. My 25-lb dog is an anti-social brat, and it’s my job to keep her away from other dogs. But if the other dog is unleashed, I can’t do very much except pick her up, and she hates that.

  4. I’m mostly a rule follower and get annoyed when other people flout rules in ways that impact others. (So I don’t care about the fire exit woman.)

    BUT I have no use for rules that aren’t reasonable and clearly communicated. And in many of these cases, it seems like there are laws/regs/rules that aren’t clear, communicated, or posted, etc and no one is aware of them until someone wants to hassle a black person.

    Yes, it’s important that no one slows down the process of handing out diplomas – but I haven’t read *anything* indicating that the graduates were warned ahead of time that there was no strolling or dancing or lingering. Plus, it would be easy to designate an area beyond the exit stairs for people who wanted to bust a move and accommodate everyone that way. (Also, fun to watch. Graduations are boring).

    The grilling thing, it seems clear that the woman was just looking to harass. If the charcoal/non-charcoal thing is a big deal, she should make a quick call to park rangers, not the police – and leave the family alone. She was looking for an excuse to give them a hard time.

    1. 1. Your children will be very hurt.
      2. My parents were almost as surprised as the dean; I think they wanted to see it with their own eyes, or they wouldn’t believe it.
      3. The only other graduation I have been to is my niece’s from Brown. Like Yale and (I take it) Cornell, they bless the graduates en masse, then send them off, in Brown’s case by majors, for individual presentations. There were only about 30 art history majors, as I recall, so it was fine.

      1. I guess it is too early to tell, but I’m fairly certain that my son and I will both want to skip the graduation and my wife will make us go.

    2. I note that you can live stream the U Florida graduation: So you can check out the graduation from the comfort of your home.

      I’m letting it stream on my computer and I find it endearingly delightful, all those smiling faces and the decorated hats. I love the decorated hats. I’ve now seen “Wherever life plants you, bloom with grace” and “I believe there is good in the world , “you have no idea how high I can fly”, “She believed she could, so she did”, “Russia” (in glitter letters, I wonder what that one means), “Don’t blink or you’ll miss it”, “I can read minds now.” I can wholy get behind cliched sentimentality at graduations, even though it was not my personal style and I would have happily skipped my college graduation.

    3. I need a “like” button for MH’s comment. When I graduated, it was in a giant arena and none of the students’ names were read; we just all stood up as a school and moved our tassels over. My parents were like, “meh”. They stayed home and did lawn work, so my commencement pictures are me in cap and gown and my parents in shorts, t-shirts and bandanas.

  5. Let’s not throw the grad student sleeping in the lounge in with this. That white student is clearly racist and possibly ALSO mentally ill and too scared of New Haven. Believe me, no one wants to walk around that stupid grad dorm…its horrible.

    That said, I am also a rule follower. I’m not supposed to park on the street but we do sometimes and I expect to get a ticket every time. When I break the rules I expect to be penalized. Sometimes its worth it to me. But I don’t usually get yelled at because I’m a nice white lady. I think if you find you have no flexibility you start flaunting it because you are going to get yelled at anyway. It’s pretty messed up and is super racist!

  6. I am a rule follower and particularly object to rules that aren’t enforced. The solution is to get rid of them or to enforce them. Not making the choice leads to all kinds of bad outcomes: racism (in the form of selective report and enforcement); penalizing rule followers, who are at a selective disadvantage in competing for resources; maintaining vague rules because they are only selectively enforced; maintaining bad rules because not enforcing them is a way of avoiding changing them.

    1. I am not a rule follower and will not follow rules if they don’t have clear reasoning. I would go out the fire door.

      I dislike arbitrary rules (like no parking on the street at night or no parking on your own grass). But, I also think that what you are calling bad outcomes (and they are bad for the general public) are actually desired outcomes by those who choose not to change the rules.

      1. Local communities set rules based on the desires of the residents. Some communities have stronger rules about aesthetics than others. They may seem arbitrary to you, but for the people in those communities, they are important. Some towns have rules regarding lawn maintenance and fixing cars in the driveway. That’s how local democracies work. And it’s a good thing. You can choose to live in a community with more rules or less rules depending on your preferences.

        I like living in a town with lots of rules about aesthetics, because having a neat and tidy street matters to me. If I could move to a town that had laws that outlawed six-foot inflatable Sponge Bob Santa’s, I would.

        Our town is currently in a huge battle for the size of a potential parking garage in the center of town. That issue doesn’t particularly interest me, but it does concern my neighbors. So, whatever. I’m happy that they have the democratic process to express their preferences.

      2. “If I could move to a town that had laws that outlawed six-foot inflatable Sponge Bob Santa’s, I would.”

        Back in December, on our local FB group, someone posted about how a vandal ran over his 6-foot inflatable SB Santa (or something similar) that was on his lawn (on a corner lot, so I guess someone took a shortcut). My thought was “treat this like the gift to humanity that it really is.”

      3. Some of their desires are stupid (see my rant below), as well as outlawing inflatable Sponge Bobs. That falls into the same category as why stop people from celebrating? And, since when are you a populist? I thought you wanted the federal government to prevent state and local governments from mistreating citizens? Once we are talking about something you like, you don’t care about whether or not other people can afford to move out of a neighborhood that doesn’t allow front yard vegetable gardens.

        You’d probably like my neighbor.

      4. I’m confused. You think the federal government should weigh in on local decisions about zoning and all that? And zoning laws are abusive? Different towns should be allowed to different standards around aesthetics. It’s not really a big deal.

        And, I’m with MH, about avoiding all graduations as much as humanly possible.

      5. His stuff was vandalized, but you don’t like his stuff, so it isn’t important. Got it. This is what I mean about vague, selectively applied laws being desired.

      6. I can’t speak for Laura, but in my case, it was a joke. 😀 I will assert my right to mock the 6-foot inflatable Xmas decorations, though!

      7. Wendy said,

        ” My thought was “treat this like the gift to humanity that it really is.”

        I LOLed.

      8. I can’t get behind the “local communities decide” without a lot of limits and caveats. There’s the ugly history of restrictive covenants. But, even after the invalidation of restrictions based on race, zoning/aesthetic/other rules have been used to limit people’s access to housing, in sometimes deliberately deceptive ways, say for example, to exclude children, or people with disabilities.

        There’s an amusing story, in Adam Canfield of the Slash (about an investigative reporter at a fictional middle school newspaper) in which Adam breaks the story of the town council outlawing driveway basketball hoops, in the hopes that families with children will move away.

        (Great book series, by the way, by Michael Winerip).

      9. Oh please Laura, you are being disingenuous pretending it is just about zoning and you know it. (See bj’s post). Let’s not pretend that zoning isn’t currently used to exclude people by race, that is the intent behind minimum lot sizes etc. Good to know, as well, that you would be totally okay with the cops tasing (i.e. torturing) your neighbor if they have a Sponge Bob santa on the lawn. Think about what you are advocating – you don’t like their style, so it is okay to torture them. if you are willing to call code enforcement, you are advocating that – you don’t get to hide from easily foreseen consequences by pretending you never meant them to happen.

      10. Tulip, please take it a back a notch and stop accusing me of this silliness. I don’t even know where this taser business happened in the comment section. I’m getting annoyed.

      11. Yeah, there’s got to be a way of having a conversation about zoning without accusing your opponent in the argument of being cool with torturing their neighbors.

    2. Yes, and people get away with rule-breaking because of status/privelege, which is another reason I follow rules, because I don’t want to take advantage. As an example, I always follow the drop off rules at our school, even when someone tries to give me a pass.

      1. Yes, this is something that my parents drilled into us from a young age. Rules apply to everyone equally, and if you break them, it’s a sign you think you’re too important to be like everyone else. If the rule is dumb, work to change it for everyone, because relying on race & class privilege to flaunt rules you don’t like is actively contributing to the system.

    3. Here’s a vent on something at my college. It’s minor, but it’s related to what you say.

      On every classroom door, there is a sign that says NO FOOD OR DRINKS ALLOWED.

      In a college classroom. WTF?

      *I* refuse to teach without a bottle of water available to me. I’ve been known, when I have two classes in a row, to chow down on a protein bar in class in-between or at the beginning of the next class. We have students with special needs (diabetes, usually) who need to eat at specific times and don’t want to have to leave class to do so. So why do we have this stupid rule that everyone breaks? I hate the message that sends.

      I’ve bitched enough about this rule that I think I got it removed from the university’s template for syllabi. But the signs are still on the doors….

  7. I’ve spent a lot of time at that Oakland Park and can tell you that the grill rules are not all that clear. (Maybe it’s changed since I left the Bay Area?)
    It’s important also to understand the relationship of the communities of people of color and the police. My partner has had many of the middle and high school students she worked with tell her about being tased by the police. For things like being in a park after dark. I certainly spent time in parks after closing as a teenager. My parents expected that I would be told to leave by the police (and I was) but no one used a taser on me. The impact tasing has on kids is horrible and those who call the police are seen by some people in these communities as equivalent to reporting your neighbors to the Stasi. I can’t blame them.

    1. It is equivalent to reporting neighbors to the Stasi. Being tased is being tortured. We need to stop making so many things against the law. It is not ok if someone is tased because they are in the park after dark (not that it matters wrt tasing, but how after dark – is it dusk or 2 am). I do not want someone tased because they parked in the wrong spot. And every time someone advocates for yet more rules, especially rules that can turn into arrests (see parking) they are advocating for this kind of treatment of their neighbors. They don’t get to say “I didn’t want that!” Easily foreseen consequences are NOT unintended.

      I have a neighbor I despise because he is a stupid, authoritarian little turd. His pet project is that he wants to make it a requirement that people decorate/put up lights for Christmas. (I SAID he’s stupid.) If people don’t, he thinks there should be fines. I have pointed out to him that not everyone celebrates Christmas. He thinks maybe they could register for a religious exemption. He is of course, loudly against any sort of Muslim registry by the Trump administration and apparently blissfully unaware that he would be creating such a registry (I SAID stupid). I have pointed out that some people have health problems. He thinks it would be dandy to have someone with cancer fill out forms for the county about why they aren’t putting up Christmas lights etc.

      He will keep coming up with more and more exemptions, but pointing out that if people don’t pay the fine for his stupid little project (he just thinks it would be nice, you know, he likes lights), eventually men with guns will show up and either arrest the people or try to take their home. He doesn’t care, he thinks that is totally appropriate because people have to pay their fines. I have pointed out that it would be over Christmas lights and nope, he doesn’t care. He disgusts me.

      1. My neighborhood is about half Jewish. You can tell which houses because apparently all-blue lights are Jewish.

      2. Anyway, my in-laws used to live in a neighborhood where it was legal to park on the street over night but the neighbors would stop you regardless of the law. They would also make everybody put up luminaria on Christmas Eve (white paper bags weighted down by sand with a candle in them). If I ever get a junker car again, I’m going to park it there for a week and see what happens.

  8. Also, I don’t think that you can talk about the rules and rule breaking and consequences without considering race. There is substantial evidence that selective enforcement of rules (from taillights to crosswalks to use of public spaces) is susceptible, at least, to bias, and more problematically, to exclude and limit access to vulnerable minorities, and most terribly, to put them in danger (from detained to tased to killed).

    (Pro Publica’s crosswalk study:

  9. The Worst Mom on the Internet once bought a house in an iffy neighborhood, reno-ed it to very specific tastes, moved in, and then started mass-reporting neighbors who were parking on the street.

    It’s not clear what happened next, but her family moved out in record time and sold the house.

    So, this stuff is not entirely a one-way street–there can be pushback for being a snitch.

    (I’m from a small town where Don’t Snitch is the 11th commandment. They don’t phrase it like that, though, but it’s part of living in a small community. The Golden Rule means being aware that there are probably things that you do that aren’t strictly allowed, so you don’t report other people and they don’t report you.)

  10. There’s an unfortunate case in our neighborhood where a biggish family is losing their lease because their kids were running wild and annoying the older neighbors. I kind of feel sorry for them, kind of don’t, especially after hearing a friend’s story of some of the kids playing shoeless in a dumpster and some of them climbing over her fence to play on her play equipment without asking. It’s a huge liability to have those kids in the neighborhood and I’m going to be relieved to see them go.

  11. The leashless dogs is one I’d want to enforce, especially if accompanied by a “leash your child” attitude. Even if you think dogs are people too, the dog was the one committing the assault on both I & MH (I terrified, MH probably not choosing to be bit!).

    I once mistakenly accompanied a friend to a dog park with my toddler boy (who pretty much thought he was a puppy at the time). Some dangerous interactions arose — for example, my kiddo running headlong towards the same stick that was thrown for a pit bull, before sense dawned on my and I took him out of there. In the leashless dog park, suggesting that my child needed to be on a leash would have probably been appropriate. He clearly didn’t have the rules of dog behavior down.

    1. Unleashed dogs have a clear safety aspect to me. Most dog parks list rules that include no children under age X (9 where I live). Toddlers absolutely don’t belong and at the dog park I frequent, I and other dog owners have yelled at people to take their kids out of the park. Insisting no one can have a Sponge Bob santa, not so much of a safety aspect.

      1. Yup, it was totally a mistake, though I don’t think this one had any rules about children.

  12. re: local zoning rules. There is absolutely no way that this job can be done on the federal level. There are thousands of local zone rules in each town. They govern everything from determining the number of inches that a house has be set back from the curb to the number of bathrooms in a house to the way that the wiring has to happen in a kitchen remodel. And still there’s a need for a board of people to sort out the big problems that aren’t addressed in laws.

    Yes, local zoning laws have been used for descrimination in the past, but 99% of them are harmless. Most of them regard safety issues, not aesthetics. And they are mostly very popular. Few people would choose to live in a town with no oversight on these matters.

    Every community in this country has some form of laws regarding aesthetics. Some have laws regarding the height of new construction. Others have those set back laws. Some communities have extremely rigid laws in these areas. One of the reasons that I like going to Cape Cod is because there are strict laws regarding home construction, so all the homes have that “Cape Cod-y” look.

    1. Nobody said the Feds run all zoning. We said the feds intervene when zoning gets out of control. Also, I am pointing out that your ‘just move’ argument is not one you would accept on other issues. I don’t consider a willingness to tase someone over Christmas lights harmless.

      1. So pick a different stupid aesthetic rule – mailbox size, for example. You say they are harmless, and I am explaining why I don’t think they are.

      2. I brought up the taser as an example of police use of force against specific communities. But I never suggested that any and all regulation should be removed. I’m not sure why Tulip keeps bringing this up.

      3. Laura, ae you sure you don’t want to write columns about how people should be tased over Christmas lights? Your big boss is apparently looking for writers who advocate violence. You just need to come in a little lower in violence than “death to 1/4 of the women in America.”

    2. Until the Republicans in the state legislature took the power away, it was also how they kept people from fracking for natural gas in the city limits. Fortunately, the price of gas dropped enough that I don’t think drilling is a real possibility.

  13. Can we start with the premise that those of us who believe that communities can regulate for aesthetic standards don’t believe that it’s OK to torture or kill people who don’t comply? Every rule could start us on the slippery slope to state mandated killing, but our laws are based on the presumption that won’t happen at least too often.

    Potentially I’m not completely in the middle of the normal distribution, but I feel vaguely uncomfortable that I can’t, quite, leave my doors unlocked with the presumption that everyone will follow the rules. A couple of years ago the big park where kids play soccer/ultimate/baseball started putting up signs telling people not to leave anything in their cars, because cars were being broken into. I was pretty disturbed. That’s not the solution I want in my civil society. But, it did start me thinking about what limits on freedom (mine and others) I’d be willing to tolerate to decrease the probability of my stuff being stolen from my car.

  14. All I can say is that these examples make me realize New Jersey is really a different country. I don’t think I’ve lived anywhere in the US with such blatant across-the-board rule breaking.

    1. Everybody breaks dog rules here. I don’t much mind that much as long as they pick up the poop. Which they don’t always.

    2. B.I., I grew up in central Jersey, and I think what you’re describing stems, in part, from a fear of being the only fool who follows the rules when nobody else does.

      Why follow local parking laws when the kid next door with his uncle’s PBA shield in his back window drives 50 down your residential street but can never get a ticket? Why get a permit for your fire pit when the guy down the block has a dozen cars in his yard and regularly burns trash in an old rusty oil drum, and nobody cares? Why not go to that doctor who will sign off on your dubious disability, when all of your friends have done it and no one’s gotten busted? And hey, wasn’t that little grassy lot zoned only for public recreation? Check out that developer who’s squeezing not one but three huge houses onto it…

      When my parents built a house next to a tiny trickle of water in 1989, they were legally required to spend thousands of dollars on flood-projection and environmental-impact studies. Not the contractor next door; he had the right buddies who worked for the township and county.

      I’m not endorsing this mindset, just trying to explain it. I was shocked when I grew up and moved away and discovered that much of the First World doesn’t work like that.

  15. I was a complete dick to a guy the other night because out of all the possible parking spots in the nearly empty grocery store parking lot, he chose to put his very expensive Mercedes into one of the handicapped space. I probably wouldn’t have done that in the States because guns, but here in Berlin I totally told him off about it.

    The same grocery store has a bad design element that contributes to another parking issue. It’s the last open area on the row and it’s a pedestrian walk area, but it’s car sized and so naturally people park there. Considerate people notice that it’s colored like a sidewalk (driving, parking, and pedestrian spaces are all visually different) but there are always inconsiderate people who park there. The shopping center owners should put in a small barrier of some sort. It’s one of the few things unrelated to education that are definitely on my to-do list for my first day as Kaiser.

    1. Two people have driven into the actual building of the grocery store near me. One was elderly and confused. The other was just going way too fast.

  16. “a student sleeps in a common area of the dorm”

    When I was at USC, I believe there was an issue with homeless people wandering in to sleep in unused classrooms. There were also (as in other places) a lot of issues with perverts in the library stacks.

    Hence, a campus community (especially in a poor area) may have some concerns about non-campus people on campus, . Unless the white grad student who reported knew that the black student was a student, it’s not clear that anybody did anything wrong by reporting the incident.

    “The videos show Siyonbola telling police the woman who called them suffered from mental illness and had called police several months ago on a friend who had gotten lost in a stairwell of the building.”

    That wasn’t awesome. I understand that if the caller was mentally ill, then Siyonbola probably needed to explain that fact to the police–but it was pretty gross of her to post video of the woman who called the police AND out her as mentally ill to the whole internet.

    Somebody needs to have their PC meter recalibrated–or at least download the new intersectionality module.

    1. Also, it takes 15 minutes for police to do literally anything. That was not particularly heinous.

      (We got stopped at night in the past year because we had on parking lights, not real headlights–and it took FOREVER for the officer to clear us to go.)

    2. When I was at USC, I believe there was an issue with homeless people wandering in to sleep in unused classrooms.

      It’s harder with undergraduates, but in grad school you can always tell the students from the homeless because the homeless have cleaner clothes.

      1. One of my fellow students in grad school once inadvertently went to a meeting with the chair with an inside out t-shirt.

        (Nobody thought to warn him because he was eccentric enough that we thought it was inside out on purpose.)

  17. We used to live in faculty housing (apartment in a residence hall) at a college in DC. One Christmas, we came home late from a trip to the West Coast and there was some sort of trouble with getting in (I believe the main door card readers had been disabled for break). I believe we called campus security and they sent four (!) officers to check us out and make sure we were on the up and up.

  18. It sounds innocuous to just call security when you are not sure if someone should be in your building. It’s a problem when the assumption is that someone who is black is always the one who is doesn’t belong. It sounds like the caller was doing the latter, as this was not the first time this has happened.

    1. “It sounds like the caller was doing the latter, as this was not the first time this has happened.”

      But you’d need a lot more information to know the full list of people she’d called security on.

      If it’s 2.0 black students, that’s not much of a sample. If it’s 3 or 4 and they were all black, sure.

      Also, I see that Yale’s undergraduate student body is 6.8% black, while New Haven is 35% black (I’m not immediately seeing the breakdown of graduate students by race).

      I’m not familiar with New Haven, but I recall that back in the 90s, homeless people in Los Angeles were predominantly black.

      And yes, a person asleep in a common area of a dorm with the light off might well need to explain themselves–it strongly suggests the possibility that the person does not live in the dorm in question and doesn’t have a bed of their own.

      I also had a couple of overnights in common areas during my MA exams (to save time on commuting back and forth–it would have been a 45 minute walk home late at night), but I would have left meekly if security had told me to.

      1. My daughter now has a boyfriend (!!!) and one of the ways they would meet/court was that he would be in the lounge sleeping/resting and she’d come in and he’d “wake up” and they’d start hanging out. It was delightfully old-fashioned.

      2. Having lived in HGS for a few years and spent countless hours there, it’s just not plausible that you would have thought someone sleeping in the common room was homeless (especially since after hours you need your ID card to open the main gate). Once we did find a homeless person living in the basement (which is a terrifying place). Turns out he was a 12th year graduate student who was holed up down there with all his books. It was a good lesson for us on finishing before your funding runs out.

  19. I went to grad school in New York City. There were security guards posted outside the building to check IDs, because homeless people sleeping in common areas was an issue. But the guards didn’t check IDs every time. Once they got to know you and if you were dressed in the Old Navy/Gap uniform, they stopped asking.

    Once I saw them harass one of the political science professors, Marshall Berman, because he dressed in ragged tie died t-shirts and had a horribly unkept beard. After getting a brain tumor removed, he had a dent in his forehead and walked badly.

      1. Sadly, the last I was in close contact, it was becoming less so. Instead of political philosophy, it was political theory and they were all well-dressed, entrepreneurial people who you not only wouldn’t have to run away from if you happened to pass on the sidewalk with your family, but who you could take to a corporate event with no greater worry than that they’d try to get themselves some consulting work.

  20. For the Yale spat, it seems the two knew each other. The student sleeping in the common room had joined a second black graduate student in March in lodging a complaint with Yale against the student who called the police. The one who called the police already has two engineering degrees and a law degree.

    I don’t think there’s a rule against sleeping in a common room. Only in the head of the student who called the police. This is the sort of thing that would be sorted out with a residential advisor for younger students.

    As to local zoning rules, never buy a property subject to a homeowners’ association if rules bother you.

    As to rule breaking, I have walked into Ikea from the registers, to avoid 1/2 mile of walking before reaching the item I planned to buy. My husband won’t enter their stores, he’s so aggravated by their layout.

    1. OMG, yes! I do that in Ikea all the time, too! We stop in New Haven all the time so my husband and kids can get dinner at the Ikea restaurant. I’m not a fan of Ikea food, so I usually stay in the car, sometimes walk the dog if she is with us. And I will sometimes go in for a few minutes to check the “As Is” section* even though I couldn’t possibly fit a piece of As Is furniture in the car. I always enter through the registers.
      *Once a yard-saler, always a yard-saler.

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