A response to Philip Christofanelli’s letter to Professor Benson

Josh Marshack

Dear Mr. Christofanelli,

I found your response to Peter Benson’s support for the University’s parenting role toward students vitriolic, hyperbolic and, ironically, utterly childish (“A response to Peter Benson,” Oct. 2). I was not able to attend the forum on the new tobacco policy, so I will take your word for it that Professor Benson was patronizing or condescending, but that does not mean that his position is entirely without merit, nor excuse the threatening tenor of your letter.

I envy you, for even though you are younger than I am, you are already confident that you are in fact a bona fide adult. Unfortunately, there are many of us who are not blessed with your great wisdom, maturity and confidence. Tell us, when is one considered an adult? And to what end? Does one size really fit all? Is the married person in his early 20s more adult than the single 29-year-old who lives with her parents? Is the person who works her way through school an adult: What if she still sleeps with stuffed animals?

The reality is that our culture does not clearly demarcate the threshold from childhood to adulthood. In fact, in most cultures, even individuals who have clearly passed this threshold still show deference to their elders. In any event, once they, or we, are old enough to speak out as equals, whining isn’t appropriate.

Either due to deliberate disingenuousness or perhaps just ignorance, you simplify the relationship between students and universities as an exchange: money for education. In a more nuanced reality, college provides a playground of sorts, with freedom but also with rules, where students can blossom not only intellectually, but also socially and emotionally. College helps us find out who we are, and the best teachers are also good advisors.

Perhaps this campus smoking ban doesn’t jive well with your notions of liberty; you may be right—who knows? But to allege unequivocally that college students are adults, or should invariably be treated as such, is an untenable position. Our parent figures, however long we’ve known them, are entitled to dialogue, not ultimatums.


Josh Marshack

  • Kate

    Wonderful response — was planning on writing one similar because I found Christofanelli’s comments to be out of place, disrespectful, and self-centered but kudos to Joshua for writing it!