Recommendations begin to take effect
Reducing abusive alcohol consumption was the theme of the Campus Culture Working Group's (CCWG) 10 recommendations, which it published last spring. The diverse group included students, faculty, members of the administration, trustees, alumni, parents and Waterville residents. All of these groups engaged each other in a discussion on ways to prevent excessive drinking and to foster a stronger, more responsible community at the College.
According to the CCWG's final report, "At Colby, the central role alcohol plays in student social life has been a source of great concern for decades. The College has attempted numerous policy and enforcement approaches to confront the systemic abuse of alcohol in student social life and change the campus culture of excessive student drinking. Despite these repeated efforts, dangerous, high-risk drinking remains a staple of student life at Colby."
One of the CCWG's recommendations that has attracted much student attention is the possibility of making changes to the existing alcohol points system that the administration uses in disciplinary procedures. Students have consistently viewed the current points system, which was instituted in 2005, as overly complex. A new disciplinary plan proposed by the CCWG divides offenses between individuals who are under 21 and those who are over 21, creating different consequences for each age group. Furthermore, disciplinary action would depend on how many existing offenses students have and whether or not they were consuming hard alcohol or beer and wine.
The proposed plan would also limit the use of hard alcohol to the Pub and to licensed events, regardless of whether the individual is 21 or older. In terms of the alcohol policy, "students will see specific changes," Student Government Association (SGA) President Jacob Fischer '10 said. "A new alcohol violation system will certainly affect student life when it becomes active next year...replacing the alcohol points system with a simpler system that integrates the recommendation to only allow hard alcohol at catered events and in the Pub."
The College Affairs Committee (CAC) is preparing to vote on the new policy next week. Once they make a decision, the Presidents' Council will discuss the proposal and their opinion will influence a final draft of the disciplinary code. SGA will then have the opportunity to make further suggestions. The process will likely continue throughout April. Although the CCWG's focus has been on alleviating high risk drinking, they have certainly been "working on all different fronts," Vice President for Student Affairs and Dean of Students James S. Terhune explained. The group's recommendations are not necessarily a statement against alcohol, but rather they seek to stop the dangerous drinking that puts people in risk of serious illness and even death.
Last month, each dorm had a meeting with a dean where residents drafted a Statement of Community Expectations, as suggested by the CCWG. These talks "were heavily focused on creating a more equitable and communal living environment in the dorms," Fischer said.
By taking a closer look at personal behavior, especially with regard to alcohol, these meetings also give each dorm the opportunity to engage in discussion about how to make a stronger and more unified College community.
"Although the meetings [last month] were good to have with the deans, I hope they become a permanent part of dorm life [without the deans]...a meaningful way to create local government in a sense," Terhune said. Some other suggestions the CCWG has proposed include offering more classes on Friday and having professors make assignments due on Fridays to limit the number of days that students spend drinking. These types of changes are being organized by the Registrar and will be available next semester.
This JanPlan, the College made efforts to offer more programming for students so that drinking was not the only option during a time that is historically less busy. Campus Life and other student groups will be working hard to create more events for students that take the focus away from alcohol.
Though the process has been gradual, the CCWG hopes to make its recommendations a permanent part of campus life by next year.