Alcohol initiative aims to make parties safer

As part of its ongoing efforts this year to fight alcohol abuse, the newly formed Alcohol Strategy Group, led by Vice Provost for Student Affairs Kevin Shollenberger, is strengthening efforts to reach out to Greek Life and other student organizations that hold off-campus events.

Several avenues for these partnerships are being pursued. First, the Office of the Student/Community Liaison has revived its off-campus event registration program, which had shrunk in recent years. Student groups who plan on having an off-campus event can fill out a form prior to the event, and they will be contacted by the Student/Community Liaison, Jon Walter.

Walter then discusses the measures that the group has in place to ensure that the event proceeds safely. He remains on duty throughout the evening to address reported noise complaints and other issues to prevent the need for Baltimore City Police to get involved.

“I make contact with the event host(s) to remind them of the student code of conduct, the expectations of the community and being a good neighbor,” Walter wrote in an email to The News-Letter.

Although the registration is completely optional, participation has been widespread. The Beta Theta Pi, Phi Delta Theta and Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternities have already participated in the program this year.

“Ultimately, students want to have this party, and we want to work with them to make sure that they have the party” Associate Vice Provost and Dean of Student Life Terry Martinez said. “But, they have it safely, as opposed to having the police come in, shut the party down and write citations. The incentive for them is to have a safe party. That’s been the incentive, and it’s worked. They really do see Jon Walter as someone who’s supportive of them.”

Martinez will also be holding a Greek Life summit on Oct. 23, where the leaders of the various Greek organizations will be invited to discuss what expectations student organizations should be held to.

“What we have in place already is holding individual students accountable. I would like to see us get to a place where we have standards to hold organizations accountable as well,” Martinez said. “It’s the peer-led model. Our Greek leaders can talk about the standards and expectations that they’ll hold each other accountable to, so that we can hold each other accountable to those.”

Martinez is hopeful that fraternity and sorority leaders will be open to serious conversations about combating alcohol abuse on campus, based on their commitment to their national organizations’ philosophies.

“[Fraternities] say they are creating men of character, dignity, integrity, morality, leadership, philanthropy, scholarship, all kinds of things. Our organizations are far more than parties. Fraternities offer so much more than that. How do we articulate and demonstrate the other qualities? I think that’s where the conversation will begin,” Martinez said.

Many fraternities and sororities already address alcohol abuse through programs led by their national organizations. The Office of Student Life is also planning on expanding the Center for Health Education and Wellness (CHEW) Bystander Intervention Training (BIT) program through partnered student groups.

“This year we had Residential Advisors go through the day-and-a-half [BIT training],” Martinez said. “We’re working with fraternities, athletes and other student organizations to offer this training on an ongoing basis. What this training does is arm students with language and specific tools for intervening in ways that help protect their peers.”

If a student is concerned about a peer who may have an alcohol problem, he or she can report that concern to the Counseling Center or the Office of Student Life, and the University will take the necessary measures to get that student help. The Counseling Center keeps its communications with students confidential, while the Office of Student Life cannot guarantee confidentiality.

In order to encourage students to seek help, the Alcohol Strategy Group may consider an amnesty policy, under which students who seek help from the Office of Student Life or other University resources can be given a lighter punishment, even if doing so incriminates the student for underage drinking. The group has not yet decided whether this policy will be implemented.

The Office of Government and Community Relations has been reaching out to local businesses to form partnerships to protect students. Businesses that have been contacted include 7/11, Barnes & Noble, PJ’s Pub and several businesses along St. Paul’s Street. These partnerships are intended to help foster compliance with alcohol laws and to help students make healthy decisions.

The Counseling Center and CHEW have existing contacts with local third-party alcohol recovery organizations and will continue to refer students to those organizations as needed. The Counseling Center conducts alcohol assessments for students who have had more than one medical incident as a result of alcohol consumption.

The Alcohol Strategy Group is working in conjunction with The Maryland Collaborative, a coalition of 11 Maryland universities that are working together to combat harmful drinking on college campuses. This group is the same one that coordinated an alcohol survey among students at the 11 schools.

“[The Maryland Collaborative] basically says there are three different things we should be looking at: the individual, community and parental influences on binge drinking,” Martinez said.

Overall, Martinez is optimistic about changing the drinking culture at Hopkins.

“I have been very pleased with the response from the leaders of those [Greek] organizations. I think the community is ready and willing to engage in those conversations,” she said. “We can’t affect change if students aren’t willing to tell us what will work and not work.”

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Copyright 2018