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“Things Have to Change"

September 16, 2009

by Nathan Bengtsson
“Things Have to Change"

On Tuesday evening students were informed via email from their RAs that the semester-opening party events of last weekend were “too crazy,” and that talks yesterday morning between the RAs and the Dean of Students “could have resulted in an indefinitely dry campus”. The email goes on to imply that  the RA’s have stalled any drastic action by DOS, but it also states that “things have to change” if CMCers are going to be able to enjoy the alcohol-related privileges they currently have.   The rest of the email is a reiteration of basic tenets of CMC alcohol policy:

1.     Put it in a red cup. If it’s not in a red cup, it will be confiscated.

2.     No glass. If you break glass at a party there is a $200 fine.

3.     If you’re in trouble, don’t be afraid to call the RA on duty.

4.     Drink within your limits.

5.     If it’s a CMC only party, all other students (and townies) will be asked to leave.

CMC Public Alcohol Policy: Alcoholic beverages may be served and consumed only at private events limited to members of the College community and their invited guests. Alcoholic beverages may not be served or consumed at events open to the public, such as intercollegiate athletic contests, or outside the confines of a registered and fenced party area. (Guide to Student Life page 32)

The email singles out “one particular event”, which for “privacy” reasons it does not disclose,  but which sources say was the transportation of a student suffering from acute alcohol poisoning.

But what does all this really mean?  At the beginning of each Fall semester people are excited to return to school and freshman are still adjusting.  There are a few problematic alcohol-related incidents.  These incidents in turn prompt a response from DOS, who, with our safety and the image of the institution in mind, make a serious attempt to “remind” students to follow the common sense rules that most of us have no trouble following. The past few years, actual policy changes have been a part of this cycle.  These changes have included a prohibition of outside drinking games (last year), and stricter accountability standards for TNC (two years past).  Despite these measures, CMC's drinking culture has remained largely the same.

Tuesday's meeting between DOS and the RAs involved a more serious conversation than usual about the evolution of the school’s drinking culture, and is apparently only the first in a series of meetings that may very well result in concrete measures to moderate a party atmosphere that DOS feels has gone from fun to dangerous.

Resident Assistant Caroline Taylor (Apartments, ’10), was kind enough to talk to the Forum about what is going on.  According to Taylor, the crux of the problem is that too much of the focus is now not on “partying” but solely on drinking.

“The culture needs to be where it was five years ago,” she says.  “We are on your [the students’] side.  We want people to be able to drink.  Drink in your rooms, take shots, but then go out to the party and socialize!  It’s just not about drinking everywhere.”

Apparently a big part of the issue being discussed is the prevalence of actual alcohol bottles, particularly handles of hard alcohol, being brought to parties like TNC.  When this happens, the focus shifts from a friendly conversation with a trusty red cup in hand to putting down as much booze as possible.  This is why the “no broken glass” and “red cup” policies are receiving extra attention.

The take away is this:  yes, there have been warnings like this in the past that have had no serious consequences.  This time around it looks like the real deal.

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