Saturday, September 08, 2007

"It's like a cross between a fraternity and a jail. And communism."

As my hall comes to look to me more and more like a fascist institution, I must gripe further. Make it so, blog.

When we arrived, we received a welcome packet that required all first-year residents of the hall (for reasons that will soon be clear, I immediately decided without asking anybody that my visitor status exempted me from this) to visit at least 50 other non-freshman students in the 16-floor hall, for at least 15 minutes each. There’s an elaborate series of rules involved. Freshman have to visit 6 out 7 of students’ association members, at least 3 different students per floor (including the house representative), and floor tutors. Even postgrads are expected to do this, though they have to visit a total of 35 students. And not only do they have to visit other students, they have to memorialize each such experience in a booklet where they must record the following information for every person they meet: name, room number, curriculum, major, department, phone number, MSN, ICQ, email address, time, date, other notes, and the visitee’s signature. And the non-freshman hallmates who are the subjects of these visits are required to receive at least 10 freshman each, and may not reject any visitor who comes before 2 am. At least half of the visits should be completed by the start of the school year, and all of them done by October 6, 2007. Those who fulfill the requirement “with outstanding performance” are to be honored (in some unspecified fashion); those who do not will have to attend the dreaded “mid-term interview” (which I understand to be the face-to-face verbal equivalent of a strongly-worded letter).

Hell. No.

I had contemplated writing about this for some time as an example of the general expectation of hall fanaticism that permeates here, but it's also become a good exemplar of the hall's overreactive disciplinary posture, now that THIS notice has been posted in the elevator:

Dear Morrisonians,

It has come to my attention that some current students have signed the room visit booklets for freshmen without actually doing the room visits. This is unacceptable to me. The Alumni who have f
unded this hall demand that each student should get familiar with at least 50 students in the hall. In view of the diverse background of students in Morrison Hall, I have lowered significantly the expectation. The basic or minimum requirement for each Morrisonian to live in Morrison Hall is to get familiar with all floormates and at least a dozen other Morrisonians in other floors. Room visit is a great opportunity for students to achieve this.

This misconduct in room visits is a severe damage to the trust and respect I have given to students in Morrison Hall. If you are busy, you can simply decline the room visits and use your own way to meet this expectation.

If any deception in room visits is confirmed, I am afraid I have no other choice but to terminate the membership of those students involved (both current and freshman). I urge all Morrisonians, especially freshmen, to report all such cases to me chhau@hku.hk immediately.

Lastly
, I appreciate all those who take the room visit seriously. It is very unfortunate that I have to issue this notice because of the poor behaviours of some students who are actually ruining the orientation!

Best regards,
Dr. Billy Hau

Warden

Because I have unilaterally determined that I am exempt from this requirement, however, this doesn't personally bother me much, because it doesn't affect me at all, and so I have lost interest (how very American of me). What does bother me, however, is the blanket policy against having any visitors in the hall after 11 pm. We have to sign all guests in and out, and they deposit their ID cards when they come in. We can't sign anyone in, and they pay close attention to who has guests. The other night, Marie and Britt (two of my Babyccino bandmates) came by to get cards, and perhaps to play them. It was about 11:15 pm, and the security desk was unmanned (the first time I have ever seen this), so we scrambled inside and up to my room. 15 minutes later, the security guard appeared at my door and demanded that the guests leave...apparently he had looked back at the CCTV footage, saw us come in, and hunted us down like gaijin dogs (gaijin is Japanese, but I have not learned the Cantonese equivalent yet).

I then got into a bit of a confrontation with him over access to the multipurpose room on the ground floor of the building. I can begin to understand (though not finish) not allowing guests in the living area after a certain time, but there are no bedrooms on the 1st floor, just these large rooms with tables and chairs that are simply sitting empty with the lights off. All we propose to do is to sit in a circle and possibly play cards, but this is evidently strictly verboten, as it would be inconsistent with the fascist ideology of the hall system that refuses to acknowledge the remotest possibility that we might wish to live remotely adult lives. I felt bad snapping at the guard for enforcing rules not of his making, and apologized later that night. But it was a half-hearted apology...it's like the military, man, if someone issues you illegal orders, you ignore them! You let us use that multipurpose room, because it is the objectively right thing to do! Le sigh.

I can't complain too much, though, because I am not Ryan or Karrine. Ryan and Karrine are two exchange students in the law program from the University of Ottowa. They're a couple, and in Canada they live together, but here they live in halls...in adjacent but separate halls. It's bad enough that both have roommates. But they can't even go to each other rooms after 11 pm, so I guess it's moot. And even if they lived in the same hall, students are not allowed on other-gendered floors after midnight anyhow. In the U.S., the dormitory-created challenges to sexing could be resolved with a simple coded message to a roommate on a white board. Here, the challenges are somewhat more substantial and multi-layered. Unsurprisingly, Ryan and Karrine are currently seeking an apartment of their own.

And honestly, nice as he undoubtedly is, the completely WOW-obsessed roommate doesn't help the Hall situation much. I had initially estimated that he played 12 hours a day, but I've since come to believe that estimate is insufficient. He is always in the room, and if he isn't sleeping, he is always playing. I haven't seen him eat, I haven't seem him interact with other students unless they're both playing on their computers, and I certainly haven't spoken to him for more than a grand total of 9 minutes. He is like one those Korean kids who eventually dies of malnutrition and dehydration and exhaustion, or whatever the opposite of exposure is, because he plays for too many hours non-stop. Truly, my mind is boggled. I've never seen WOW addiction from so close, and it's a scary sight. Based on what I saw in the film "Traffic," I think heroin abuse might be easier to watch.

Normally, I would just ignore his misery, but it affects me adversely, and so I care about it. Even when I had a roommate in an American dorm, there were moments of privacy available. I'd be out and he'd be at home, and he'd have the room to himself. He'd be out and I'd be at home, and I'd have the room to myself. Sometimes one of us would go to bed earlier, and the other would have a few hours to feel like we had our own living space. But I've gone to bed around 3 am every night this week, and every night when I go to bed, he's still up, and he's still playing. My moments of privacy come in the approximately 30 minutes I've gotten on a couple of mornings, when I wake up before him. But then I, you know, go outside.

And since I'm unloading all of my complaints about the hall in one fell swoop, let me tack on one for the road. I cannot possibly convey to you how uncomfortable my bed is. It's worse than sleeping on a slab of stone. Not because it's harder (it's probably close, though), but because it is a giant lie. I don't look at a slab of stone and expect to be comfortable, I know what I'm getting, I prepare and adapt. But time and again, I find myself surprised with the thing. Every time I exhaustedly plunk down onto the bed, I apparently expect it to be more comfortable than the last time. And every time I feel the stinging pain in my back from flopping down ass-first onto what is essentially a red, cloth-covered rock, I feel betrayed anew. Perhaps a back-sleeper would have a better time, but as a dedicated side-sleeper, I have actually awoken with bruises on my elbows. Man was not meant to live like this.

No comments: