According to about.chemistry.com, the scientific definition of a buffer is a solution that utilizes chemical properties to keep a solution “stable,” as well as being identified as “resistant to changes” (in pH). Although the concept of a buffer in the realm of modern college may not necessarily be as applicable to the real world outside of the chemistry lab, the parallels that it draws with the idea of a buffer between college students and the adult “real world” can offer significant insight into the debate of what exactly the role or right of the university administration is in providing such a buffer.
In a broader response to a question that could be answered in a broad variety of ways, I might dare propose a broad question of my own – if the purpose of creating a sort of buffer between college students and the adult world is created, when exactly is it that a person explicitly becomes an adult? Is there even such a thing as a full fledged, turning of the page moment where one second an individual is fully child, and the next fully adult? In my humble opinion, I feel that such a transition becomes a bit more complicated than that based on a number of factors. For most individuals, I feel that the road to adulthood is highly unique and varying from person to person. For some, a higher level of maturity and global consciousness may be obtained earlier in life, validating their place in the realm of adulthood perhaps sooner than when they are handed their diploma or don a cap and gown. For others, a prolific and unparalleled life event may take place that in essence forces them to make a leap into adulthood, often times not by choice. And for still others, the transition between adolescence and adulthood has become so diluted and prolonged that for some it is difficult to determine at what point true adulthood is reached. Is adulthood marked by well known life milestones, such as when an individual goes off to college, officially moves out of the house, starts a family of their own, or secures a “real” working career? Or is adulthood measured by the maturity and responsibility with which one faces those life events, either big or small?
These broad questions often elicit equally as broad answers from students, depending on who is asked. I believe that this fact is a large contributor to the ever gray and blurred line between what the university or parents have the “right” to control in the lives of today’s students. On the one hand, I believe that the college process brings about so many changes and new experiences for students on its own, that some level of shielding from further dramatic adjustments is a positive way to protect students from breaking under the weight of so many new transitions and impacts on their ways of life and identity. Also, it is a generally well regarded fact (no matter how much the youth try to dispute it) that older and wiser people are older and wiser for a reason, and that their insight ought to be respected as such. Yet on the other hand, I believe that imposing such restrictions on students is to some extent a step of too much presumption on the part of the university. The beauty of the college experience for many modern students is the opportunity to learn more than perhaps ever before in their lives about who they are as an individual, and how they will uniquely choose to forge the path that they want to pursue in life. For a university to impose the same general sanctions in hopes of creating a protective buffer that affects an incredibly large number of people, all trying to discover exactly what it is in life that makes them different from those thousand others, is a bit of a recipe for discontentment. Not all students can be protected in the same ways because not all students feel that they need to be protected from the same things.
All this to say, there are many ways to examine and advocate for or against a student buffer when it is examined under the context of being implemented for the sheer intended protection of the students in question. However, looking back to the scientific definition of a buffer, the true motives of such practices also must be adequately considered. Aside from benefitting students, imposing such a buffer can also be interpreted as highly beneficial for the authority in question as it gives them some level of established control over the student population, allowing them to have a greater chance at keeping such an at times unpredictable population “stable” and to some extent “resistant to change.” While these are amiable qualities in some respects in regards to the overall peaceful nature of the system, it can also come off a bit irksome to students often seeking the sort of changes that administration is reluctant to consider, a main source of the continued perpetuation of this forever struggle between the students and the authority figures present, such as parents or university administration.
At the end of the day, students must remember that their very identity as a student implies that they exist as such entirely because of the fact that they attend a university, and because of this the two entities are invariably intertwined whether they’d necessarily like to be or not. However, the constant give and take between the authorities and the students who will one day turn into these authorities themselves will continue to provide a widely varied source of discussion on the weight given to the student voice and variations of identity, ultimately contributing to a level of complexity that would make the periodic table jealous and a chemical reaction that will forever be anything but predictable.