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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Nanny State U.

    “”Eat your vegetables.”” “”Don’t forget to take out the trash.”” “”Be back by eleven.””

    These commands and others like them are staples of many childhoods. As of this week, however, UA students can add another imperative to the list: “”Make sure you have a safe password.””

    College students are usually seen as adults, and by just about every measure, they are: in the eyes of government, in the eyes of the law and in the eyes of their parents and peers. Yet not, it seems, in the eyes of the university; the UA disagrees that you are in fact a fully cognizant individual responsible for yourself and your actions. They think that you are but a babe in the woods, and need direction in your every action to prevent you from making bad choices.

    How else to explain the sheer arrogance of the recent e-mail sent by the University Information Technology Services (UITS)? The e-mail states that “”all University community members will be required to change their NetID password,”” and what’s more, “”Community members who fail to make the required change may find themselves unable to access their e-mail or other network services.”” To use parental diction: “”If you kids don’t change your passwords, I’ll take away your e-mail privileges!””

    The administration has forgotten that it is dealing with a generation that has been weaned on the Internet from childhood. It was this generation that taught our parents how to use the Internet, and it was this generation that sighed in frustration and embarrassment when they yelled, “”What about my name? Is that a good password?”” We’ve heard the Internet safety schtick a hundred times before, in a hundred different ways. The e-mail offers an alternative, though: “”You can avoid forced expiration by changing your password anytime after Jan. 26.”” The choices are overwhelming: You can change your password, or you can change your password.

    The UITS justifies the policy by saying that UA is “”Increasing its security measures to help ensure that your personal records and other important data are safe.”” There’s a bit of irony in mandating such stringent internet safety protocol, considering that the UA campus is a place where women are often afraid to walk alone at night. Imagine if you had to contact a UA safety administrator every time you wanted to walk around campus after dusk. The administrator would determine how far you could travel based on how many safety precautions you had taken. Should the UA adopt such a policy to ensure on-campus safety? Of course not; different people will take different precautions, based on their own needs for safety. Individuals are, in the words of Milton Friedman, free to choose.

    Unfortunately, this new mandate is merely one in a series of paternalistic measures taken by the university. The Red Tag Pilot Program is among the more infamous of these measures. The creation of this policy shows that UA thinks it should keep a constant eye on how you behave outside of the university, regardless of educational impact. Students who are paying their own rent, working part-time jobs and planning their future careers clearly are not responsible enough to determine how they want to act when their work is done.

    Then there’s the less famous, but equally condescending, banner policy for the UA Mall. The policy states that all banners displayed on the Mall must “”be in good taste, clean, neat, have correct grammar, and contain no commercial comment.”” Yet good manners are acquired, not mandated by an arm of the state; such a policy is akin to the state legislature passing a law requiring citizens to say “”please”” and “”thank you.””

    The UA is merely one of many victims of the ideology of the nanny state. The principle is simple: “”Experts”” know how to better manage your own life than you yourself do, and should be allowed to save us from ourselves. The nanny state has become endemic, manifesting itself from city government (the California city of Calabasas has banned smoking in private apartments), to the federal behemoth itself (which has proposed a federal ban on selling candy and other unhealthy snacks in schools).

    The school’s stated mission is, “”To discover, educate, serve and inspire.”” Notice that it does not aim to coddle, to cajole, to scold or to mandate. College students, who exist in an all too fleeting apex of personal liberty, should be all the more wary of administrative attempts to chip away at this freedom. After all, this is supposed to be the time of our lives to learn to be independent; but how can we learn this independence if we are forcibly guided in choices as minor as one’s NetID password?

    Evan Lisull is a sophomore majoring in economics and political science. He can be reached at letters@wildcat.arizona.edu.

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