Posted by Kat Kullman
At 8:30 p.m. on Tuesday Nov. 16, 50 students, faculty and administrators gathered with the Student Government Association Senate to discuss the drinking culture on the college's campus.
Rochelle Calhoun, dean of Student Affairs, called the meeting in response to the recent incidents on campus involving excessive alcohol consumption. The administration, concerned for both students' safety and the college's public image, hopes changes can be made with regard to the attitude toward drinking on campus.
Beginning the discussion, Calhoun reinforced the idea that the college is a community and, as such, individuals need to take personal responsibility for themselves.
"The goal of this evening is to have an authentic conversation and to listen respectfully to each other," she said. "The administrators and faculty aren't here to judge. We want to hear you speak honestly."
In this vein, Calhoun asked the room to briefly break into small groups of faculty and students to discuss excessive drinking, safety issues and strategies for making alcohol consumption safer.
One of the primary concerns of the meeting's attendees was the mixed messages that previously came from the administration with regard to drinking. As one student said, people at the college get both the message to drink slowly, but also not to drink at all.
It creates a contradiction that ultimately makes alcohol use hard to control. "How can the administration teach us responsibility about alcohol if it's forbidden?" another student asked.
Many student comments raised the notion that because drinking is illegal for most under, and many upperclassmen, it becomes more enticing.
"I'm worried that because drinking has been driven underground, people stop worrying about the consequences because they're not in public," one student said. "If we were drinking in a public environment we would be more aware of our actions."
However, because the legal drinking age in the U.S. is still 21, administrators said there is little the college can do to create more lax regulations with regard to underage drinking.
Calhoun said no matter what the administration felt about the drinking age, they operate in the state of New York and therefore have to abide by state laws. Legally, the college cannot just become a more open drinking environment.
Many students at the event placed emphasis on dorm life as the biggest problem. Students said that there is a definite shift in the drinking culture upon moving to Scribner, Northwoods or off-campus.
One student said that it was obvious the issues were mostly coming from the dorms. "In the later years, you aren't pre-gaming, you're relaxing," she said. "But the dorm culture is one of drinking as fast as you can so you can get out."
It was also noted that the lack of fraternities and sororities sets the college apart in an adverse way. Not having a place to go means students do not drink for a purpose, and this causes students to drink more than they intended.
One student agreed about the problems with the underclassmen living situation and said that by making the dorms substance-free, the college instead guaranteed that they would not be.
"All the residence halls have people drinking even though they're ‘substance free,' but I think that making separate and truly ‘substance free' dorms would be really helpful," he said.
Some students said that such changes would cause non-drinkers to be targeted negatively. Instead, others said, the college should host school-sponsored parties specifically for non-drinkers.
"The problem is the culture on our campus, but also in America," one student said. "And I think the change starts with informed citizenship. We all need to create a support system here for each other so this sort of thing stops happening. It's about growing up. How do we make people look out for each other?"
Students offered solutions such as employing more peer advocates, creating more scheduled events and placing RAs in the position of allies, not enemies.
Calhoun said she listened carefully to all the suggestions and comments.
"Whether we choose it or not, we are representatives of this community. Whatever I do, as much as I may want it to be anonymous, it is about us at Skidmore. We need to always remember that," Calhoun said.