Scrolling Headlines:

Author, poet and ex-con gives talk on criminal justice reform -

September 29, 2016

Israeli writer Ari Shavit speaks at Integrative Learning Center -

September 29, 2016

Alex DeSantis continues strong play for UMass men’s soccer as season reaches midway point -

September 29, 2016

Andrew Ford looks to continue to lead UMass football’s torrid offensive passing attack -

September 29, 2016

Sunset Grill and Pizza adjusts as a new restaurant in Amherst -

September 29, 2016

UMass field hockey falls 8-1 to No. 1 UConn -

September 29, 2016

Offensive-oriented practices hold high hopes for UMass women’s soccer with A-10 opener Thursday -

September 29, 2016

Hyper-stress on college campuses: a culture of high achievement leads to increased rates of mental illnesses -

September 29, 2016

Race of candidates should not affect voter turnout -

September 29, 2016

Students share what keeps them happy during the fall -

September 29, 2016

Harvest’s millennial-pandering replacement to Chameleon Cold Brew leaves caffeine fans at a loss -

September 29, 2016

Guide to fall 5K races and beyond -

September 29, 2016

UMass Votes Coalition hosts voter registration event -

September 28, 2016

Brettell presents on U.S. immigration policies -

September 28, 2016

UMass field hockey team seeks revenge against undefeated UConn -

September 28, 2016

UMass running back Marquis Young looks to build off momentum gained against Mississippi State -

September 28, 2016

UMass hockey announces captains for 2016-17 season -

September 28, 2016

Andy Isabella finds his niche within the UMass football offense -

September 28, 2016

The EpiPen Crisis: How did this happen? -

September 28, 2016

Cymbals Eat Guitars evolve and impress on “Pretty Years” -

September 28, 2016

Legality cripples morality

While perusing through some news stories recently, I noticed a particularly interesting Associated Press article concerning a new policy recently put into place at Tufts University. The new policy bans students from engaging in sexual activity in their dorm rooms while their roommates are there.

Reception of the new policy was fairly divided within the Tufts student body. Some think the policy is a positive measure, reinforcing respect and proper cohabitation conditions between roommates. Others, however, think it is a blatant and unnecessary intrusion into students’ residential lives.

After reading the article, I found myself unsure which side I agreed with on the matter. Nevertheless, I found the policy itself to be quite unorthodox, at least in terms of what it was trying to regulate and where.

After thinking about it for a while, I came upon another article on Time.com, this one concerning a discrimination lawsuit between clothing retailer Abercrombie & Fitch and a young woman named Samantha Elauf. Long story short, Abercrombie refused to hire Elauf, who is Muslim, because her religion requires her to wear a hijab, or headscarf, and this apparently doesn’t fit in to Abercrombie’s “look policy” (a.k.a. their employee dress code). In turn, Elauf is suing Abercrombie & Fitch for “discrimination … on the basis of religion,” said the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, according to the article.

After reading both articles, I came to the conclusion that I disagreed with upholding the rules and policies inherent in both articles. I don’t just disagree with them because I am for what they’re trying to prevent, however.

As someone who lives in a dorm, I wholeheartedly agree that engaging in sexual activity while your roommate is present should indeed be frowned upon to say the least. I also think that discriminating against someone based on religion, or any personal trait for that matter, is wrong, in terms of employment or otherwise. The reason I disagree with upholding these policies, though, has to do with the subtle repercussions of the moving of the fine line between legality and morality.

In my opinion, just because certain things should or should not be a certain way does not mean we need a law or rule inherently enforcing it. It may seem an arbitrary point to defend at first, but aren’t there things we shouldn’t have to be bound by law to do or not do? The aforementioned notion of morality becomes muddled and hidden behind legality when certain rules are put in place. As the saying goes, “If you don’t use it, you lose it.”

Enforcing certain moral decisions – even the easy ones – by law or policy takes away one’s ability to flex the morality muscle, so to speak. And it is precisely this that we will lose. The ban on sex while a roommate is present, for example, is supposedly in order to promote “respect and consideration,” according to the AP article. But doesn’t enforcing the ideas of respect and consideration by policy somewhat undermine the intangible values therein?

I’m not trying to be all Johnny Anarchist here and say all laws and rules are bad for society. Of course laws against stuff like murder and assault and all those kinds of things benefit us as a people. But there are some things that should simply be left up to a person’s moral judgment to decide, as opposed to having a decision imposed by some sort of legal measure.

Take the Abercrombie & Fitch lawsuit, for example. I in no way promote or think it right to discriminate against someone based on their personal spiritual practices. However, should Abercrombie & Fitch be persuaded by law to think similarly? The harsh reality about a business like Abercrombie is that it turns a profit by marketing on an association between its clothing and attractive people. Abercrombie as a company would therefore see it fit to associate itself with as many attractive people as physically possible. Is it morally wrong of them to turn someone down for employment simply because they think the person’s “image” isn’t attractive enough? It is in my book, but it shouldn’t necessarily be illegal for them to do so.

In my opinion, restrictive laws and rules preventing Abercrombie & Fitch from certain hiring practices – such as the one in question – are merely a reactive attitude to a realization of moral values in today’s society. The idea of having a “look policy” earns Abercrombie & Fitch, according to Businessweek.com, over $3 billion a year in revenue off of us as a society. Yet our society has rules against such practices.

Is it too much to ask to pull morality out of legality’s shadow? Regulating certain moral issues and decisions by policy alone renders any sense of morality impotent, since it takes away the ability to choose the “right” answer, or at least the potency therein. Perhaps if we put a stop to this, we could come to terms with who we are as a society, in a moral sense.

Dave Coffey is a Collegian columnist. He can be reached at dscoffey@student.umass.edu.

Comments
One Response to “Legality cripples morality”
  1. muad'dib says:

    If they want to have a policy on sex with roommates present they could just fix the whole damn problem by building the right housing to give people single-person rooms. I’ve seen North Apartments: a room in there may be small, but it’s *yours* to screw around in as you please. Or at the very least roommates should reciprocate the whole respect and consideration thing by giving each other some roommate-less time to spend with the SO.

Leave A Comment