Working group forms to address role of alcohol on campus

Following months of preparation, the College administration is now prepared to form a working group to address questions of alcohol use on campus with a particular focus on the results of the NESCAC alcohol-use survey taken last spring.

Discussion of the goals and specifics  of the group has been underway since early September, when survey results became available to the administration (“Campus-wide alcohol use survey initiates committee formation,” Sept. 19).

The group, which hopes to begin meeting prior to Thanksgiving break, is co-chaired by Dean Bolton and Vice President for Campus Life Steve Klass. Other members include Laini Sporbert, health educator; Debby Flynn, nurse practicioner; Lili Rodriguez ’01, director of the Davis Center; Dave Johnson ’71, associate dean and dean of first-year students; Ben Lamb, assistant director for student involvement; Kris Herman, head softball coach and committee member of the student life sub-committee of the Committee on Diversity and Community; and six students, each of whom is in a leadership position in a different student group on campus. Representing College Council (CC) is Peter Skipper ’13, CC co-president; Carrie Tribble ’13, co-president of the Minority Coalition (MinCo), will represent MinCo; Inan Barrett ’13, co-president of the Junior Advisor Advisory Board (JAAB), will represent JAAB; Ali Piltch ’14 will represent the Student Athletic Advisory Committee; Long Dang ’15 will represent Students Against Silence; and David Burns ’14 will represent Peer Health.

According to Bolton, the working group will be focused on understanding how to have productive discussions about alcohol use around campus.

“There are sorts of things that we are bringing to the table that have to do with the data and conversations that happened last year … and things that have popped up in student conversation over the past few years,” Bolton said. “So that’s all brought to the table, and the question is really, how do we want to look at what we know about ourselves? What else do we want to know about ourselves that we don’t already know? And then, what would we like to see stay the same or work better around how alcohol operates on campus?”

While the idea for making a working group resulted from last spring’s survey and previous conversations around campus, the committee will be free to set its own agenda and come to its own conclusions regarding what the appropriate next steps to take in shaping discussions surrounding alcohol on campus.

“The specifics – like should there be an all-campus discussion about some particular question, or about the effects of alcohol on inclusion, or on social life or on welcoming first-year students – which of those things are interesting conversations or are there any conversations that the campus as a whole would like to have, those are the kinds of things the committee will decide as we go on,” Bolton said.

Klass remarked that the working group will be structured much like the Bias Incident Reporting Task Force in that aside from student, faculty and staff members, outside guests will also be invited into meetings to give their perspectives. This format allows for a more complete view of the effects and culture of alcohol on campus, according to Klass.

“There’s part of the conversation that comes to us, and there’s part of the conversation that goes out, and we really won’t know the shape of that until we’ve had a chance to sort of its own and think it through,” Klass said. He also explained that the wide range of offices, groups and campus organizations represented by the individuals in the group, as well as its format of inviting guests to weigh in on issues the group has discussed, will ensure its view on issues of alcohol on campus will be wide-ranging and inclusive.