Thursday, January 10, 2013
Thinkin' 'bout drinkin'
I hate the picture* above. The first time I saw it was in the film Haze, which is available for viewing from our Alcohol Web page and is shown to new members of social organizations each spring. My thoughts run rapid fire: Where were her friends? How did she end up like this? Who took this picture? Who posted it? Who left her there? What did she think when she woke up? Was she sexually assaulted? Will she ever know?
Every so often, it is important to re-visit a favorite past-time of college students. It can't hurt. Many are consumed by "consuming" anyways, so it is best not to ignore it. Getting students to invest in their own success can be a challenge. Getting them to be safe and look out for one another - in the face of so much pressure is another matter all together.
Prohibition didn't work. We are not anti-alcohol at Trinity, if for no other reason than that. People love their alcohol, despite some pretty compelling information (and images) that says we would be better off without it. If we were to start from scratch, would we choose to have alcohol in our culture? Any reasonable person couldn't argue in favor of it. But that isn't the drink we have been poured. So moderation is the key. Stressing that message is about all we have going for us, and it is a challenge in a perceived work-hard/play-hard setting like college. But we live in a world with alcohol, so we need to deal with it.
A couple years ago there was a movement to change the drinking age from 21 to 18. I am still not sure why those are the only two options. I like a 19-age-limit as it gets most through high school and freshman year. Enforcing alcohol policies as dictated by law is really difficult. We try to focus on the behavior that is disruptive and that usually leads to staff finding alcohol. We don't look for alcohol as a beginning point. But you have to enforce policy or you send mixed messages.
At Trinity, the majority of our enforcement happens in the first year area, where disruption doesn't mix well with new students trying to navigate the challenges of academics and independence. In the upper-class area, with most aged 21, we leave it to our students to control their environment. The Sophomore College environment is somewhere in between. Off-campus is another matter. Parties at private residences pose huge risks and our students often feel their consequences on campus. (Think DUI, vehicle accidents, sexual assault, and hospitalization for alcohol poisoning - all of which happened this past fall.)
We educators need to always be thinking about drinking. Most alcohol awareness programs have been shown to be ineffective. So in addition to thinking, we need to educate one another, to talk about it, and to try to save people from themselves.
This spring the Trinity Alcohol Coalition will re-convene to review our philosophy related to alcohol (we acknowledge students drink, we care about safety, and we enforce policies). Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you want to be included!
*sorry this is offensive. But it is, isn't it?