Posted February 27, 2015 by Laura Whittemore 

Fighting the Good Fight—Alcohol and Campus Culture

red solo cups alcohol stock photoRecently, I’ve been working within our department and with student organizations on our campus regarding events with alcohol. While they aren’t an everyday occurrence, student organizations host a handful of events with alcohol each semester. In addition, Vernon Social—a recently renovated multipurpose building on Trinity College’s campus that houses a bar—is open two nights a week and is used as an event location for organizations that want to utilize a “bar” atmosphere.

After seeing a steady increase in the amount of events that come with requests to serve alcohol, as well as the chaos that can come from these “open bar” events, we decided to take a stand and develop a policy that outlines strict protocols for events with alcohol, including a drink limit that is reflective of the total length of the event itself.

We are very proud of this policy and think it was a step in the right direction to encourage safe and responsible drinking on campus. This in itself is an issue that is well known but not widely talked about.

A recent experience of mine highlights the importance of efforts such as these. Not long ago, a student who I have come to know well through this past year’s orientation opened up to me about her desire to take a year off, find her direction in life through spirituality, and return to college, but maybe not to this institution. After hearing about her struggles with campus life and, mostly, her unhappiness with the social climate, the issue of alcohol and underage drinking on our campus hit me in full force.

This was a student who was well-informed about campus events and well-connected to support services, and she had a wide variety of friend groups—but she still felt the social pressure on a daily basis to drink alcohol and felt that the social options for those who choose not to drink were not adequate.

When I asked if she had any ideas about how we can change the campus culture or bridge the gap between those students who drink and those who don’t, she admitted that she’d been racking her brain and couldn’t think of how to even start to approach the issue. In reality, it’s a paradigm shift that needs to be made consciously by each and every individual on campus—faculty, staff, students, alumni, and future students. It speaks to the overall issues of underage drinking and alcohol abuse that is present across the country.

How do you start that change? It’s a daunting task and seems insurmountable. Change like this will take years until you actually start to see the difference and the impact it will have on your campus. The only answer that comes to mind, though, is this—change starts one step at a time. We have to make a conscious effort to fight to improve this situation on our own campuses and work to the best of our ability to support the students who are looking for a change, and we need to start that before they take the first step on our campuses.

We might not be able to see a drastic change immediately, but if we are patient and work with all of our campus resources and have buy-in from our student leaders, eventually, we will see change.
Laura Whittemore

Laura Whittemore is the Director of Student Activities, Involvement & Leadership at Trinity College Hartford.

Laura's primary responsibilities include managing the daily operations, budget, and programming of Vernon Social at Trinity College. Laura's involvement in ACUI began as a building manager as an undergraduate at the University of Connecticut, and she has volunteered in a variety of roles on the national and regional level. Laura obtained a master’s in Counselor Education: Student Development in Higher Education from Central Connecticut State University.

Comments

Good for you and Trinity for taking positive steps in this arena. I know we faced a great deal of scrutiny when our building plans included a bar, and even today some people are surprised to find out I work in a building with a bar downstairs. Part of that surprise may be in wondering why I don't have all of my meetings down there! But I do think Student Affairs departments are well-positioned to portray alcohol as something that can and should be handled responsibly, and in conjunction with another event, rather than being the event itself. Students, faculty and staff all visit Woody's Tavern, but for the live music, karaoke or trivia nights, or game watches. It also happens to be a place where those of legal drinking age can get a beer or glass of wine while you participate in that event. But that is not a necessity to enjoying the programming that is taking place. It is a much better alternative to house parties or some of the off-campus establishments who may be less discerning in whether any guest should be consuming alcohol.
Jeff Pelletier
pelletier.12@osu.edu
Comment posted 02/27/2015 2:27 PM
Good for you and Trinity for taking positive steps in this arena. I know we faced a great deal of scrutiny when our building plans included a bar, and even today some people are surprised to find out I work in a building with a bar downstairs. Part of that surprise may be in wondering why I don't have all of my meetings down there! But I do think Student Affairs departments are well-positioned to portray alcohol as something that can and should be handled responsibly, and in conjunction with another event, rather than being the event itself. Students, faculty and staff all visit Woody's Tavern, but for the live music, karaoke or trivia nights, or game watches. It also happens to be a place where those of legal drinking age can get a beer or glass of wine while you participate in that event. But that is not a necessity to enjoying the programming that is taking place. It is a much better alternative to house parties or some of the off-campus establishments who may be less discerning in whether any guest should be consuming alcohol.
Jeff Pelletier
pelletier.12@osu.edu
Comment posted 02/27/2015 2:27 PM
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