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Alcohol: Kim’s Illusion of Activity

President Kim is working hard to create the illusion of hard work, but is anything getting done? As regards alcohol, Dartmouth has two problems, one seemingly unique to the College and one shared by everyone else. Our unique issue is a local police force that has a bee in its bonnet over alcohol and seeks to ensnare over-indulging students in the criminal justice system (either via arrest or in the Town’s Diversion program, or by charging the Greek organization who served the hooch in the first place). Secondly, like schools all over the country, we have too many students who seem to think that it is a rite of passage to get inebriated to the point of incapacity. Let’s face facts: the latter is not going to change.

President Kim is looking to solve both these problems, and in an interview with The D he pointed proactively to a program in place at two other universities:

A new program called Red Watch Band at Northwestern and the State University of New York at Stony Brook, where Fields is a professor, trains students to recognize signs of alcohol poisoning and call for help for intoxicated peers, according to Kim.

Kim said he thinks a similar program could be successful at Dartmouth if students led the program’s development and implementation.

First let’s look at these schools’ relationship with their local police departments. The 24,681 students at SUNY Stony Brook are either all training for the priesthood — errr.. that’s not a good metaphor for probity any more — or else somehow the police force there turns a blind eye to student drinking. Over the past three years there were a total of 4 (four!) arrests at Stony Brook for alcohol violations.

Stony Brook.jpg

At Northwestern University, the drinking habits of the school’s 19,853 students led to 54 arrests in 2007-2009:

Northwestern.jpg

In contrast, at Dartmouth, with a total of 5,987 graduate and undergraduate students, there were 238 police arrests over the same period. Oh my.

Dartmouth Clery.jpg

What is the Red Watch Band program? Here’s how the Daily Northwestern described it:

The program teaches students how to respond to alcohol-related medical emergencies and is operated through Stony Brook University in New York. Peer advisers started training through the program Thursday, and NU plans to expand the program next year to any interested student, said Lisa Currie, director of health promotion and wellness.

Stony Brook administrators started Red Watch Band in March 2009 as a response to the death of NU freshman Matthew Sunshine, whose mother, Suzanne Fields, is a doctor and professor at Stony Brook.

Sunshine, a SESP freshman, died of alcohol poisoning June 10, 2008, with a blood alcohol content of 0.396…

“Many people may not know just how to call 9-1-1 or what you really do to respond appropriately,” Currie said. “What I hope is that it increases students’ awareness of what a medical emergency actually is, so we’ll help them understand what’s really the best response.”

In addition to peer advisers and peer coordinators who will participate in the trainings this spring, two sessions will be offered to leadership and risk managers in the Panhellenic Association and Interfraternity Council member chapters, Currie said.

Say what you want about Dartmouth students, even drunken ones, but they know how to dial 9-1-1. Their recent tendency to do so with greater frequency, due to the College’s implementation of a Good Sam policy, is the source of our current problems. The real issue in Hanover is not the need for students to watch out for each other, it is what happens after an emergency call is made.

President Kim is going to have to do better than point to a program that nobody in Hanover has never heard of, if he wants us to think that he is doing a good job.

Recommendation: Jim Kim can chat with the Hanover Selectboard and propose new programs all he wants. The better solution is for students to get organized and elect a Selectboard that will actually listen to President Kim. How about having all 4,000 undergrads who are on campus this coming spring participate in Hanover’s next Town Meeting and elect their own Selectman. In order to become a registered Hanover voter, all a student needs to do is prove residency in town: a letter from ORL presented to the Town Clerk is sufficient.

Better still, how about assembling thousands of signatures for a Petition Warrant for the next Town Meeting, one that asks the Town to instruct its chief of police to allow S&S to take charge of alcohol enforcement — or more provocatively — one that asks the Chief to use his discretion to enforce the alcohol laws in the manner of other college towns.

The last Selectman to be elected, Dr. Athos Rassias, son of Dartmouth Professor John Rassias, won his seat with only 1,564 votes (about 1,750 town citizens participated in voting). How hard would it be for the Greek system to assemble 2,000+ students? If Chief Giaccone wants to ramp up the temperature, let’s meet him halfway.

The next Town Meeting will take place on Tuesday, May 3, 2011 at the Hanover High School Gymnasium. A good turnout by students will most certainly get the attention of the people who give the Chief his orders.

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