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Administration holds Q&A on new alcohol policy

Conner and Moschenross addressed student concerns about the new alcohol policy at a Q&A session Sunday. Photo by Xiaoxuan Yang.
Conner and Moschenross addressed student concerns about the new alcohol policy at a Q&A session Sunday. Photo by Xiaoxuan Yang.
Conner and Moschenross addressed student concerns about the new alcohol policy at a Q&A session Sunday. Photo by Xiaoxuan Yang.

Marking the latest in a series of forums to discuss recent alcohol policy, Andrea Conner, Vice President of Student Affairs, and Sarah Moschenross, Dean of Students, held a Q&A wherein students could address remaining questions and concerns on September 11. The administration announced the new alcohol policies on August 1 and led a town hall on August 30, in addition to the student-led town hall the same day. This most recent Q&A session aimed to address the anger and confusion that resulted from the earlier town halls.

Students’ questions focused heavily on the implementation of regular dorm walkthroughs, which are conducted by Community Advisors (CAs), Resident Life Coordinators (RLCs) and Campus Safety officers. Many suggested that instead of having constant vigilance from all three levels of authority, only CAs should conduct the walkthroughs. Students argued that CAs are more attuned to the student culture than RLCs, who are still unknown to many of their residents.

Joe Rolon, Director of Residence Life, disagreed, defending the position and capacities of RLCs.

“They have programming requirements as part of their job,” Rolon said. “They do three programs a semester, they send monthly newsletters out to their residents. So if the residents aren’t reading it, there’s no way we can enforce it, but they are there. They’re all qualified to be there.”

The correlation between academic stress and alcohol abuse was also a central issue of the Q&A. Students took particular issue with the College’s lack of mental health resources to address this problem.

“I think a lot of the substance abuse issues we have on campus are rooted in mental health problems,” said Olivia Queathem ’17. “One of the consistent issues I’ve seen in my almost-four years here is that faculty are assigning more work than their students can actually finish, and that professors are not always understanding of issues that come up.  We can’t take our partners and friends to the hospital and sit with them in the emergency room without worrying that our professors are going to cut our grade on our paper that’s due the next day … it contributes to a really stressful environment.”

Conner assured students that several faculty members are currently addressing mental healthcare on campus, a contrast with the administration’s language on the August 30 town hall wherein students were encouraged to find alternate forms of stress-relief other than binge-drinking.

“I just enlisted the help of the Dean, Mike Latham, to really raise these issues so that faculty will enter into the dialogue more consistently,” Conner said. “The more constructive we can be in actual projects and actual results that cannot be disproven by the generational talk around classifying you and your colleagues, the better.”

Conner and Moschenross asserted throughout the event that Grinnell currently ranks higher than other campuses in its execution of harm reduction and safety in a manner that appeals to students. A committee comprised of both students and faculty exists to combat such issues, and the process remains non-punitive, meaning students are never fined for alcohol related infractions. Additionally, Conner and Moschenross reaffirmed that Student Affairs is not opposed to campus-wide events such as 10/10 or routine lounge parties. Rather, they aim to make small adjustments in order to make these events safer.

Despite student criticism of the alcohol policies, Conner and Moschenross stressed that the administration will continue to implement the changes they see fit, while also communicating with the student body.

“This change is something we can consult with you about, but we can’t wait for your approval,” Conner said. “We as an institution value that consultation. But when it comes to some of these alcohol related things in compliance with the law, it is not something that is up for public vote, and it’s not something that we can wait until most of the student body feels great about. We had to move.”


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