From the Red Carpet to the ER: Junior Ring’s Issue with Binge Drinking
With a record number of hospitalizations this year, the Junior Ring dance on Dec. 1 proved to be an unforgettable night in more ways than one. An event laden with a history of binge drinking, Junior Ring 2018 saw ten* students transported from Skidmore’s glamorous red carpet-themed gymnasium to the emergency room. At a school unafraid to cancel high-risk events when it comes to issues with alcohol, Director of Health Promotions Jen McDonald weighs in on the future of Skidmore’s annual formal dance.
This year’s ten student hospitalizations are a far cry from the college’s usual number of around two to four each Junior Ring. And according to McDonald, students are up against quite a few different factors that may play into the role of binge-drinking before the dance.
“Unfortunately, we have a culture, both nationally and as a campus, that supports (or even celebrates) excessive drinking,” explained McDonald. “Students know that they won’t be able to drink at the event—there is a beer garden, but that is obviously only for students who are at least 21 years old—so many students consume a larger amount during their pre-gaming time than they might otherwise.”
Taking an even darker look into the issue, McDonald also points to the possible guise of drinking as a coping mechanism: “Junior Ring falls towards the end of the semester when students are typically experiencing pretty high levels of academic stress and, unfortunately, many use alcohol as stress relief.”
Whatever the reason may be, McDonald acknowledges that these binge drinking factors are always at play, not just in this particular year, so she is hesitant to draw a conclusion about why 2018’s incidents were so high.
What she does know is that the future of the dance may be bleak if this trend continues: “Several years ago we had to eliminate Moorebid Ball—a Halloween event—which had a history of being extremely high-risk. We tried several years in a row to lower the risk, but ultimately it wasn’t improving, so the college had to make a difficult choice.”
Until Skidmore possibly faces that same difficult decision with Junior Ring, the college will persist in their efforts to eliminate hospitalizations. McDonald cites several different prevention efforts from Skidmore, including their social norms campaign, bystander intervention trainings, alcohol and drug education programming for Junior Ring ticket discounts, various poster campaigns and video messaging from the Student Government Association prior to large events, among others.
Even in light of the high number of hospitalizations this year, McDonald is hopeful for Skidmore’s continued efforts: “[Binge drinking and hospitalization] is not a problem that is unique to Skidmore. Schools have different approaches, but I believe Skidmore is on the more proactive end of the spectrum.”
The college plans to keep this proactive outlook in mind as they regroup to assess what may have gone wrong this year. At a meeting happening on Thurs., McDonald says the administration will go over what works and what doesn’t, while brainstorming different avenues and ideas to possibly implement.
McDonald references certain programs, like the informational and non-judgmental Brief Alcohol Screening & Intervention for College Students (BASICS) training as well as the Skidmore Social Norms campaign, as initiatives that have proved effective in the past according to the college’s own studies.
Yet, for all the administration can do, McDonald makes one point clear: it’s ultimately a collaborative effort with students when it comes to facing alcohol-related issues head on. “We are always open to ideas and love when students get involved, so I would like students to know that they should come to us if they have thoughts to share.”
*Ten total students were transported to the hospital on the night of Junior Ring, but only nine of these students attended the dance itself.