Editorial: Altering risky behavior begins with students

Julie DeVercelly, Gary’s mother, concluded her impromptu remarks at the end of his memorial service with a call for us students and the University to “take a stand” against the dangerous behavior that led to his death.

Take a stand, we must.

“Alcohol abuse by college students is a national issue and remains an important concern that we as an educational community take very seriously,” said President Mordechai Rozanski.

In the days ahead, the outcome of the law-enforcement investigation will be announced. Now is not the time to point the finger at any individual or group. At a time like this, it’s easy to succumb to the blame game. In the end though, that will only impede the effort to implement effective changes.

The message from DeVercelly’s death by alcohol intoxication is not making it into the minds of all students. Some took a quick glance at an article measuring the magnitude of the national binge-drinking crisis in our special Tuesday edition of The Rider News and simply turned the page. “Heard it all too many times,” said one student. It is that careless mentality that can lead to preventable tragedies. As a close-knit community of students, professors and administrators, we can start to break the ties of the nation’s drinking culture.

The University has already taken a step in the right direction. President Rozanski formed a task force comprising administrators, faculty and students who will recommend new policies. The voice of students must be strong. Unfortunately, the few Lawrenceville students named so far are all Greeks; more diverse student representation is needed.

Rumors about Rider becoming a “dry” campus are doubtful; such a solution would be drastic and problematic. Although it might give the appearance that alcohol is no longer a presence on campus, it would only lead to students finding other underground ways of drinking. An increase in drunken driving is likely to occur, as students would head off campus for a drink. We know the deadly implications of that.

A thoughtful letter to the editor below notes how counterproductive it has been to raise the drinking age to 21. But lowering the drinking age in New Jersey is a remote possibility at best. And on the high school level, it has had a measure of success in keeping high school seniors from providing their underage friends with alcoholic beverages.

Unclear, inconsistent rules that are unpredictably enforced seem to be a problem on the Lawrenceville campus. The Rider News will look at this in a future issue. But more regulation is far from the only answer to the national problem plaguing Rider and other colleges. The onus is on the students.

As a society, we have come to accept the idea of having a sober designated driver. Now more than ever, it seems we also need a sober friend at the party looking out for the safety of our peers. Many of us use the “buddy system” to walk around campus late at night. It is worth trying during the festivities, to have a designated friend who is not drinking keep an eye out.

Unless students start to change the culture and police themselves, Rider may face an uphill battle as it works to prevent another tragedy.

This weekly editorial expresses the majority opinion of The Rider News editorial board and is written by the Opinion Editor, Jamie Papapetros.

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