How about one more committee?
This year, SGA has been creating new task forces and committees faster than Government Professor Guilain Denoeux hands out C’s in his Comparative Politics course. Some have expressed skepticism at the effectiveness of SGA’s recent policy actions, but I for one applaud them on addressing the myriad difficulties (like learning differences or gender insensitivity) that some students have to deal with on a daily basis. This isn’t windmill-chasing on SGA’s part; we all need to be more sensitive to the challenges that some of us face. It always takes some time to evaluate the results of these actions, but SGA’s conscious decision to at least recognize these issues and respond to them is commendable. Phrased awkwardly, our current SGA has had no problem finding new problems to address. But their persistent ignorance of our campus’ largest problem is a key source of disappointment.
Alcohol usage and policy is a (the) major issue on campus. Regardless of any student’s actions, by the time they have finished their four years at Colby, they will have had literally hundreds of discussions on drinking and drinking culture at the College. Throughout my time at Colby, I have heard and participated in many interesting conversations on race, class, socioeconomics, etc. But the most public and heated discourses always come back to alcohol. The ubiquity of alcohol means that it spills over into other campus issues that at first glance seem unrelated, and are treated as unrelated. If the SGA has it in them for one more committee, it should be one that is engaging in the campus alcohol discussion.
When the administration announced the hard alcohol ban at the end of the 2009-2010 academic year, it was the product of extended discussion and deliberation. At the very least, the Campus Culture Working Group had a strong student component. Last year’s SGA was very active in those discussions, and while the administration had final say, that SGA was very vocal in terms of engaging and informing the student body as a whole on the alcohol policy. With all due respect, that focus seems to have graduated along with the Class of 2010.
The point of this piece is not to say that the current Student Government Association has completely neglected the alcohol policy. In a recent meeting, they agreed to request that the Dean of Students Office publish a brief detailing the effects of the new policy. But aside from that action, there has been a notable disengagement from the alcohol discussion, and Executive Board members have conceded as much. Instead of conceding that SGA has a lesser role in the drinking policy, there should be a larger effort to expand that role to a level commensurate with alcohol’s impact on this campus. A committee or task force is a straightforward start to that expansion.
I stated earlier that alcohol spills over to other campus issues. The most obvious related issue is dorm damage, which is largely precipitated by inebriated individuals. But for topics like respecting differences among students at Colby, I believe that alcohol is also a major factor. Several of the bias incidents in which racist, sexist, homophobic or otherwise offensive statements are uttered occur when alcohol is involved. Inhibitions are lowered, and people say things that they otherwise would not express during the schoolweek. While the weekends are often not a time when mindsets are changed, they are a time when feelings can be hurt. Addressing differences without looking at the situations that exacerbate them is not fully addressing the problem.
I sincerely believe that a committee dedicated to the alcohol issue would improve the campus; the resulting discussion would end up crossing several of the boundaries that can exist among us. At the very least, SGA could not be criticized for a lack of effort. This year’s group has an admirable level of enthusiasm for organization and community engagement. The alcohol discussion is a tough mountain to climb, but I think that no organization is better equipped to tackle it than our SGA.