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Feven Getachew
Feven Getachew
May 6, 2024
Michael Lozada
Michael Lozada
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Nathan Hoffman
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Harvey Wilhelm `24.
Harvey Wilhelm
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Alcohol focus of Harm Reduction Committee

The Harm Reduction Committee (HRC) is finishing up their review of the College’s alcohol policy this week. Last year, President Raynard Kington asked the HRC to review the policy and compare it to the recommendations for alcohol policy revisions by the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) that were created while Kington oversaw the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

Empties pile up at Quarter Beer Night at Lyle's Pub yesterday evening. The Harm Reduction Committee has been examining the alcohol culture at Grinnell and how to make it safer. Photograph taken by Avery Rowlison.

The HRC, which is composed of students, faculty and staff, reports to Kington directly. Its role is to review and research policies and make recommendations to the President based on its findings. The HRC also meets with party organizers before events such as 10/10 and Block Party to discuss ideas to increase safety.

“The role this committee is taking now is that it is becoming institutional memory for parties and what to do correctly,” said VPSA Holden Bale ’12.

For instance, Bale said that for 10/10 the HRC suggested that organizers have ACE Security follow the party to prevent thefts and vandalism, implement wristbands to better determine who was associated with the College, and organize more TIPS-trained “rescue dogs.”

The HRC’s list of recommendations is not concrete yet, but how to properly host a beer garden is on the list. This is due to controversy during House Wars last semester over whether or not the alcohol policy allowed for beer gardens on campus.

“We’ve made the recommendation to approve beer gardens—one or two a semester, if it’s a major all-campus event, not during nighttime hours,” Bale said. “We as a committee voted that we were fine recommending a beer garden for Relays.”

The HRC will recommend that RLCs or the Dean of Students refer students who have been hospitalized for alcohol related incidents, or students with alcohol problems, to speak with a staff psychologist.

“We’ve basically been reviewing our policy against these tiers of effectiveness and these reviews and studies that have been done that show [that] … motivational interviewing works really well, which is basically seeing a psychologist and having a discussion about alcohol norms, what you do and what you don’t do, and why you’re drinking,” Bale said. “It’s a really effective way to ameliorate negative, bad, destructive alcohol behavior.”

The NIAAA recommends eliminating mixed messages in the policy. To this end, the HRC has proposed changes to the wording of the alcohol contract, as many members of the committee felt it is redundant and contradictory.

“We cleaned up the alcohol contract because it was long … and [there are] inconsistencies in it,” Bale said.

The alcohol contract also now requires that party organizers be aware of Iowa State Law, including the consequences of serving people who are underage and the consequences if anything happens to those people.

Two of the issues the HRC discussed on Thursday were the ones they had put off: wristbands and minimum age drinking. Wellness Coordinator Jen Jacobsen’s main goal is to eliminate the mixed messages on these topics in the College’s policy.

“Do we just remove the expectation of wrist-banding at Harris because that creates a mixed message [about] where we wristband but that doesn’t really change if you get served if you’re under 21 or not, or do we enforce the wrist-banding at Harris?” Jacobsen said. “I think one or the other needs to happen because that would eliminate the mixed message.”

“I don’t think life for Grinnellians will change hugely,” said Bale. “Harris is not a problem in general. We’re talking one to three kegs for a minimum of 200 students. It’s hard alcohol in lounges, in rooms, off campus—if a problem is going to develop, it’s going to develop there, and that’s not what we monitor.”

Bale does maintain that there is a possibility that the HRC will recommend that wrist-banding be enforced at Harris in order to curb underage drinking.

“With a harm reduction model, we would lean toward the side of doing what’s right and what’s healthy for the students and not being punitive about it. I don’t think anyone wants to be punitive about it,” Bale said.

Students will begin to see changes as soon as Block Party. The party’s organizers have already met with the HRC, Grinnell Chief of Police, and the officer that will be on duty during Block Party to brainstorm ways of creating a safer party.

“It was a great discussion. … How can we get what everyone wants out of this, for people to have a good time but no gets hurt and everyone follows the laws?” Jacobsen said.

Students can expect organizers to take precautions similar to last year. One of the few changes would be increased signage around the borders warning students not to urinate in public or take open containers across the borders to decrease students’ citations. Jacobsen emphasized that the Grinnell Police Department will take precautions so that as few students as possible are cited this year.

Another change might be to have ACE security in the dining hall during dinner because of incidents last year.

“We had a situation in which the dining hall staff were basically being abused … and it is a failure of the students at this college that no one there [stopped it],” Bale said. “So we’ve realized that there may be a need to have security presence there.”

“That’s a place where I would really challenge our student body to exercise self-governance,” Jacobsen said. “I don’t want to have to have security there. I would much rather have students intervene because they care about their community.”

Overall, Block Party will see few changes since it isn’t an all-campus event and doesn’t take place on college property.

“Block Party, when it’s well run, can be a great model for harm reduction,” Jacobsen said.

The recommendations will be unveiled to students and President Kington during an open forum on May 12 in JRC 101 during the convocation hour, 11 a.m. This will be an opportunity for the community to discuss the HRC’s recommendations.

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