The Scarlet & Black

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The Scarlet & Black

The Scarlet & Black

Staff ed: Great improvements in NSO

The organizers of New Student Orientation should be commended for a job well done. This year’s NSO came and went without a single alcohol-related hospitalization. This time last year, no fewer than 11 students were sent to Grinnell Regional Medical Center. While this year’s nonexistent hospitalization statistics are the most tangible evidence of the week’s success, NSO experienced a number of small victories due in large part to the collaborative efforts of Student Affairs, paid NSO interns, NSO leaders and Student Staff. It’s about time.

Andrea Conner, Assistant Dean of Students and Director of Residence Life and Orientation, along with paid interns Alex Peitz ’10 and Hugh Redford ’10, led the revolution in rebuilding NSO from the ground up. Bringing NSO graduates to the planning table was a strategic move on the part of Student Affairs. Having experienced firsthand the programming of previous NSOs, Peitz and Redford were able to strengthen sessions that may have fallen short in the past as well as reinvent those that had been complete failures.

The alcohol, sexual health and diversity programming were among the most drastically altered as well as the most well-attended sessions of the week. Instead of hiring an outside group to handle some of the more sensitive discussions, NSO coordinators looked to students to facilitate the bulk of the programming, a move that added a level of relevance to program.

In response to the record-setting antics of last year’s orientation week and the 29 alcohol-related hospitalizations that accumulated during the 2008-09 school year, an Alcohol Task Force comprised of students and faculty in conjunction with Student Affairs implemented a “harm reduction” approach to alcohol education on campus. This new strategy was introduced to the wider campus community during Student Staff training and was then properly launched at the beginning of NSO through a series of cluster-wide conversations facilitated by members of Student Staff. The result seems, so far, to be a success.

While abstinence-only alcohol education has never been the intention of NSO programming, organizers of NSO have been unable to adequately verse incoming students on the importance of responsible alcohol consumption until this year. The new approach to alcohol education is long-awaited and we hope it will be constructive to the campus community throughout the year.

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