Residential Staff Discuss New Alcohol Policies

Yesterday, the President of the College welcomed first year parents in a Mead Chapel “town hall” Q&A session and took several question on the issue of alcohol on campus. Ron’s message solidified the stance adopted last year of focusing on destructive drinking and community values on campus while still adhering to Vermont’s drinking laws

Residential Adviser (RA) training continues this week and is beginning to reflect the philosophical changes the President outlined. One of the major talking points for RAs, FYCs, and CRAs is finding ways to make students accountable to one another instead of to an “authority” like Public Safety or the Health Center. And as a part of this accountability, the residential staff is trying out a system that relies on friend networks:

If a student needs medical attention, Public Safety will transport him or her to Porter Hospital. If a student is intoxicated and with friends, the responsibility will be on the friends to stay with that person. If a student is intoxicated and alone, Public Safety will transport that person to a “duty office” where residential staff will attempt to “find a sober friend” for that person or stay with the person until morning. If at any time a student’s condition worsens, Public Safety will take back intoxicated students from friends/residential staff for transport to the hospital.

This will help pick up slack for the closure of the Health Center at night and Public Safety who are most busy between the hours of 2-4AM. The “duty office” is essentially babysitting drunk people and residential staff will be paid for their service (currently $40/night but look for the market rate for this job to increase) from 2AM to 6:30AM on weekend nights. The location of the “duty office” is the basement of Ross, in the old gym space. Two years ago, residential staff tried a “hotline” system where residential staff would be called to take care of smaller incidents (like noise complaints) to release Public Safety for more serious matters.

The idea is to stigmatize going to the “duty office” (please rename it to something like “the fish bowl” or “the tank”) because it really means you have no friends to take care of you. And if your friends are taking care of you, they aren’t going to be pleased doing so and will have a word with you when you sober up, chief.

Will underage drinking citations go away? No — Vermont law, remember? But this new system will be different and will take some time to get used to. Expect the residential staff led by Senior Residence Director Lee Zerilla to tweak the system as the semester unfolds.


5 thoughts on “Residential Staff Discuss New Alcohol Policies

  1. This is a fantastic idea. I love it! Put a bunch of untrained not medically minded individuals, who in some cases, may have had a few drinks themselves that night in charge of really drunk sick kids. People call public safety because they know they can’t take care of their friends not because they would like to say hello to an officer and potentially have their friend put in the hands of another underage untrained student. GREAT IDEA! I can’t wait to see someone call psafe just to have them turn around and say your now responsible.

    Oh and lets not forget about confidentiality. Does everyone really think that RAs will keep things confidential?

    Can’t wait. This will be a great semester. I love how the college is doing this with no public awareness campaign or no stepped plan but just suddenly deciding to try and change the entire mindset of the student population on alcohol.

  2. Anomynous[sic]: what are you talking about? No public awareness campaign? Keep your head in the sand and just blame others for unsocial behavior. Great recipe for a grand future. Dean Jordan has been outlining approaches to alcohol on campus for 18 months; do you want him to come over and discuss all this with you?

    How about learning to take some responsibilty for your own actions for a change and stop pointing fingers or expecting the world (or in this the College) to take care of you and your generation. Good grief. And I am sure you are the first to complain of the cost of a college education…and then expect your hand to be held all along the way. See the connection?

    Simple approach: stop drinking so much and all this would be moot. Start there.

  3. I have to agree with MiddAlum.. since when at no time during an evening is a young adult not responsible for the choices he/she makes? I think it is very important for the school to address destructive drinking and not come down so harshly on a few beers. And along that same vein, I see nothing wrong with a little fishbowl of shame if you’re choices are turning you into an idiot.

    I also can’t imagine students are paying the majority of the cost of a Middlebury education, so I would suggest a little less :woe is me: approach to drunken debauchery and a little more, what can I do to help my friend. Because here’s the thing: If you are drinking to get bombed and you don’t have friends, what does that say about how you’re handling college life in general? If you are so drunk that you have misplaced all your friends, what does that say about your ability to even BE a friend?

  4. You are completely missing the point MiddAlum. We all agree that yes college students should drink less. But what you do not understand is that that will not change anytime soon and that closing the health center given what people were taught at orientation and from their piers will only put people’s lives in danger. You will always have people who drink.The college has had any public campaigns to try and lower that amount (to my knowledge) and so all that has happened is that they have taken away a valuable safety resource and said that students (who call public safety in the first place) are just as good as registered nurses.

    I am the same anomynous person that posted earlier. I am not a heavy drinker and take responsibility for my own actions. What I do not want to take responsibility for is drunk friends. Consider the huge liabilities that occur with taking care of someone who is drunk. If I agree to take care of someone and something happens while I was asleep because neither I nor public safety who are not trained doctors or first responders could recognize symptoms like the nurse at the health center (who is paid to stay up all night and watch sick students) could. Would you want that responsibility? Because that is what this plan calls for.

    What is worse is that once students realize they are going to go the hospital if they drink a lot then friends will most likely be less likely to call for help early on thinking that “they can handle it”. Then what you have is a critical patient instead of someone who was easy to take care of at the health center or if caught by public safety early on.

    To be honest i do not care where the students end up as long as it is in the hands of a trained professional and that it does not tax the resources of the town like this plan will.

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