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Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Should the dorms at TU be smoke-free?

With all of the money the University put into the LEEDS-certified renovation of Thomas and Lightner Hall, the one element that may keep us from being fully certified is that the halls are not smoke-free. This will change in 2009-2010. There is no way to justify not going all the way on this important project.

Since I quit smoking in 1986 or so, the wave of anti-smoking sentiment has continued to rise. Sitting at a sports bar this weekend with colleague Ben Newhouse reminded me why. (Both of our teams - the Titans and Packers - were big winners, by the way.) The gentleman next to me about killed me, though it was a little enticing as well.

So where do we go from here? Should all dorms be smoke-free starting next academic year? ASR has said no in the past. (Of course ASR supported Sophomore College, until the following year, when it didn't.) As the policy stands, students may smoke on balconies and walkways.

What do you think? Take the poll at right to weigh in.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Woe is We

The year has barely begun, yet I am already somewhat disheartened that an off-campus party attracted new students on move-in day (can't we give them 24 hours to settle in?). I am chagrined that Student Conduct Board is already two weeks behind because of early-year alcohol incidents. I am worn down by the rhetoric of a few, who passionately fight for their rights to drink. I begin this week facing an alumna complaint about drunk and boorish behavior from our students at the football game on Friday. But I have been here before.

In the sea of all all of this there is one bright light. A first year student named Natalie approached me about starting a Gordie alcohol awareness peer group chapter on campus to battle, at the student level, the dangerous consequences of alcohol and hazing. Manna from heaven...

The only truth I can really can state unequivocally is that alcohol and the behavior that comes with it takes up far too much time and energy. It seems to be the one topic with no answer and the one consistent topic that pits administrators versus students.

So, here are my thoughts and feelings on alcohol today. Some of these are in direct conflict with others:

1. Whether the drinking age is 16, 21, or 18, the American culture is one that holds up binge drinking as a rite of passage, especially during the college years, but even well beyond. If the drinking age were 18 it would be the early 1980's all over again. The European model of drinking at all ages wouldn't work here because our culture glorifies alcohol and partying.
2. Students will get drunk and intoxicated and sometimes that is fun. Prohibition doesn't work and isn't educational. Modeling responsible drinking and communicating to students that first and foremost, their health and safety is the most important issue, is the University's approach.
3. Around 1,700 college students die each year in alcohol-related accidents. While I feel like saying "go ahead and drink, see if I care..." that stat is pretty haunting. I do care.
4. Only a third of students do most of the drinking. The other two-thirds often have to live with the consequences.
5. Why is alcohol so important to people anyway? (Rhetorical question.)
6. Students underestimate the moral liability that administrators feel about this issue. We are often criticized for not wanting to be sued. If we are sued, it hurts EVERYONE from our University community. The endowment doesn't belong to the administration. What administrators fear most is meeting with family members of a student who has died senselessly because of alcohol.
7. Universities that receive federal funds have to have an alcohol policy and show they enforce it in order to receive funds. Schools that have alcohol policies and don't enforce them are in for trouble.
9. Trinity's alcohol policy is well-reasoned, thoughtful, and pretty liberal. This is a national issue, not just Trinity's.
10. It would be nice if students could sit in their dorm rooms and have a beer or glass of wine while enjoying a DVD from Netflix.
11. The five strategies that have been shown to work in approaching alcohol problems are offering alternatives, showing students that not everyone is drinking, restricting alcohol promotions, limiting availablity, and increasing enforcement of policies.
12. The Trinity Alcohol Cooalition is open to anyone. E-mail to join.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Space Jam

Trinity University parent (oh - and astronaut!) , Mike Foreman, presented items to the University in August. Mr. Foreman, whose son Jack is a sophomore, took a swimming cap and t-shirt into space and safely returned them as gifts to the University. Check out the full story from James Hill (you have to scroll beneath the picture). The hat will be on display at the Trinity Library in the near future. Pictured above are son Jack, swimming coach John E. Ryan, Mr. Foreman, and me.