The Scarlet & Black

The Independent Student News Site of Grinnell College

The Scarlet & Black

The Scarlet & Black

Alcohol culture change starts with students

To the student body:

When I was visiting colleges and universities as a high school senior, one of my visits stood out to me in the worst way possible. It was at a state school—very different from Grinnell’s atmosphere—but it was a small state school, one of the tiniest undergrad programs in New York. What I remember from that visit was this:
I was sitting in a café (much like the Grille) with a friend from high school that was on my overnight tour group. We were talking to then-current sophomores about a student that died on campus that semester from alcohol poisoning. And you know what? The sophomores laughed about it. They called him “a f**king idiot” because he had been binge drinking at a frat party (another phenomenon alien to Grinnell’s culture) and he was left on a couch by the people that lived there—because those students, the ones who lived in that house, never bothered to check if he was okay.
I recently shared this story with Travis Greene, our Dean of Students. His reaction was similar to mine: shocked, disturbed, saddened. And then, considering the newly acquired information about alcohol consultants coming to campus this fall, I asked him, how many instances have occurred at Grinnell since my first year where a student could’ve easily died from alcohol poisoning?
His answer: there have been repeated instances where it could have gone either way. Travis is speaking from his experience—he started working at Grinnell in the fall of 2008.
The way that our campus functions on the weekends, we are teetering on the edge. It’s as though we’re waiting for this to happen.
You might look back to the S&B article from the April 19 issue, with the front page spread about alcohol policy consultants coming to campus. The article details significant changes that the college and the Harm Reduction Committee (HRC) have implemented over recent years, such as strengthening the terms of the alcohol agreements, enforcing wrist-banding, beefing up ACE Security and implementing other policies to increase the accountability of event organizers and servers. But we are still hiring consultants to examine our policies and hopefully this decision will lead to some sort of positive outcome on the culture surrounding alcohol.
But consultants won’t be enough. It is the responsibility of these consultants, as well as the responsibility of the administration and myself as co-chair of the HRC, to address the holes within our policies. But who is responsible for consuming the alcohol?
It’s me. You. Us. The student body.
To think for one second that our extreme alcohol culture is solely up to the administration to fix is absurd. They are doing their best to take care of us and we consistently overstep what is acceptable. No student should be looking to drink so much as to black out and vomit over the weekend. Is this what we’ve set as our standard? We’re already at a point where we’re simply expecting a hospitalization to occur after bigger events; and on more than one occasion, even events that are less widespread in their appeal to the student body rack up multiple hospitalizations in a single night.
And yes, liability is a major concern. There is no administrator at any college that doesn’t worry over students dying from alcohol poisoning. While this fear may be extreme to us as students, we have also not yet had a student death due to alcohol poisoning in any recent memory (if ever). Should a student die from alcohol poisoning, what do you think will happen? Will the Harm Reduction Committee reconvene and write another policy? Will we hire more consultants to take another year or so to write a report about it?
That being said, we can change the culture surrounding alcohol. In fact, students are the ones with the most power to do so. Learn your limitations. Drink at a moderate pace. Carry a BAC card. Remember to drink water. No, just because a party doesn’t have alcohol there does not mean you have to leave so you can drink some more. Do what you need to do to keep yourself in check. Self-govern! Because not only will it help you retain your integrity after the weekend, but it will also help you protect yourself.

Sivan Philo ’13

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