It’s easy to jump on the bandwagon and criticize the new policies and recommendations of the Presidential Task Force on Alcohol, Personal Responsibility and Student Life. You don’t have to ask too many students before someone rants that the new policies are a “party killer” or just a way to take all the fun out of college. But, like it or not, things had to change.
You can be one of the mass who simply hurl uneducated accusations against the Task Force, or you can take a moment to consider the implications and intentions this group had for the Rider University community. As you see can for yourself from the letter to the editor from Debbie Stasolla, vice chair of the task force, the intent was not to make the Lawrenceville campus dry. The status quo of the past that fostered an underground culture of underage drinking at unsanctioned parties, which many knew existed but to which they turned a blind eye, was a dangerous habit that many of us fell into. Previously, alcohol policy violations had penalties that many would shrug off with the payment of a fine. These did not have the power to deter future violations.
Gary DeVercelly’s unfortunate death as a result of alcohol poisoning was a tragic wakeup call that we all need to heed. The task force put forward a comprehensive set of recommendations to ensure the safety of the Rider community and, as the report says, “reduce the incidence of high-risk drinking and related dangerous behaviors among our students.”
One of the reasons the old policy did not work was because it prohibited underage students from being in the presence of an older individual who was drinking. At last that rule is — gone. You can go ahead and hang out with your older friends without the fear of getting an alcohol strike, as the old system called. Better yet, there will be nights where all ages can come together in the Pub and socialize. This is a change many students have wanted for a long time.
Out of all the recommendations, the best tool the University has is its plan for education and outreach. New students are now required to complete AlcoholEdu as a way of learning about alcohol consumption. It’s important we get new students on the right foot from the outset. Knowledge is power, and these programs will make students think twice before making that all-important decision to drink or not and, if so to do it safely.
The intentions of the Task Force were altruistic, meant to ensure the safety and well-being of students. Yet there are unintended consequences that might not have been anticipated. The University has to abide by state law and not allow individuals under 21 to consume alcohol. If you don’t like it, then write to your state representatives and channel your frustration to them because until the law changes there is nothing Rider can do. Sadly and with potentially tragic consequences, it is only time before students take their parties off campus and get behind the wheel after having a few beers. At a recent party, a shuttle service was hired by the students hosting the event, which transported students to and from an off-campus party so no one drove while intoxicated. Hosts and participants at such parties should realize, however, that their safe-drinking arrangement will not keeping the police from busting them if they are underage.
To mitigate the temptation to go off campus, there will be more activities in the Student Recreation Center and late hours at Starbucks where students can gather. In the end though, we each need to have some responsibility for our own safety — no policy or rule can have a real effect unless we all unite and give it legitimacy. Hiring a substance abuse and prevention coordinator, additional public safety officers and residence directors for all Greek houses will go a long way to providing the manpower needed to enforce and promote the policy.
Sure, college is supposed to be fun. Some say it is meant to be one big party. But, in the aftermath of the loss of one of our own, the University had to step in and take drastic measures. This was partly to save face under the glare of the media, and partly to keep credibility with parents and prospective students. Above all, these new policies show the interest the University has in maintaining the safety and welfare of its students.
Written By Opinion Editor, Jamie Papapetros