Editorial: We will not forget Alexander Grant

Posted by the Editorial Board

It has been more than two weeks since the death of 19-year-old Boston College student Alexander Grant, who drowned in a Saratoga Springs creek after partying with his Skidmore friends. We are at a loss of words to describe the tragedy, but as one of many student body voices, we are going to do our best to try.

We see Grant's death as a profound loss to his family, his friends in Briarcliff and Boston College, his acquaintances and the countless lives he touched in big and small ways. We want everyone to know we are also deeply affected, and most of us never met him.

What is perhaps the most disturbing for us is that this is not limited to Skidmore and our own campus culture - this could have happened at any college in the country. Indeed, some of us with friends at Middlebury College remember the accidental death of Nicholas Garza in 2008, when he fell into a freezing river after attending an off-campus party.

We do not have enough information at the moment to determine whether Grant's death was a casualty of college binge drinking culture, or if it was an anomaly, a "freak accident." All of us, especially Grant's family, are looking for answers.

In the March 22 Glens Falls Post Star editorial titled "Witnesses must come forward," the editorial board asks the residents of the house on Church Street, where Grant was partying earlier on March 5, to come forward with "answers." They ask these students to cooperate with investigators instead of staying silent under the protection of the 5th Amendment and their lawyers, as they have so far done.

We understand why these students are staying silent. As the Post Star editorial acknowledges, the party hosts "have done what we in society have trained them to do — lawyer-up." But the editorial chastises our students for "evading responsibility at all costs," and enlisting "Mommy and Daddy" to make sure they're not liable for Grant's death.

The Post Star editorial offends us in two ways. Firstly, their language suggests we are all financially dependant on our parents, and implies that we use our parents to bail us out of legal trouble. Their language "Mommy and Daddy," to identify our parents, is a condescending way to characterize Skidmore students as irresponsible, naïve and juvenile.

Secondly, the Post Star implies the party hosts are responsible for Grant's death. Yes, the hosts may be legally responsible if they served alcohol to Grant and other minors, as providing alcohol to a minor is a Class A misdemeanor in New York State, with a sentence of up to a year in jail. But we cannot use the party hosts as a scapegoat for Alexander Grant's death. We therefore understand our students' silence.

After years of D.A.R.E. education and our alcohol assessment before college, we understand the dangers of drinking. When we drink, we are inevitably responsible for our own actions and safety. We keep a close eye on our friends and make sure they are also drinking responsibly, but if we are drinking as well, our judgment is impaired. We all assume this responsibility when we take our first sip. We made the decision to drink. We cannot place the blame on another student or group of students, like the party hosts who live on Church Street.

To a certain degree, it seems as though Grant's parents understand this as well. While they have expressed their desire to obtain more information from the students who were with their son that night, they are not looking to place blame on any individual, as they stated in their March 22 letter to SSPD. They want "answers" so the can have "closure."

It is unfortunate that these students cannot readily share this information with Grant's family without running the risk of being held responsible by law enforcement.

To the family of Alexander Grant, we give you our most sincere sympathies. We do not know, and hopefully will never know, the grief you experience.

As far as the way we live on campus, we are going to be more attentive to our peers when we drink, and we are going to be responsible for our own wellbeing. And while most of us never knew Alexander Grant, we will never forget his death.

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