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Alcohol Task Force confronts Kenyon drinking culture

Alcohol Task Force confronts Kenyon drinking culture

On Sunday, while some students on campus were recovering from the weekend, the College’s new alcohol task force set out to confront the culture that promotes drinking behavior.

Formed last semester, President Sean Decatur charged the 11-member task force — comprised of students, administrators, professors and a trustee — with the task of making “recommendations on what strategies Kenyon College should employ to address the high-risk practices and behaviors related to the presence and consumption of alcohol on campus,” according to a Jan. 23 Student Info email from Vice President for Student Affairs and Alcohol Tasl Force co-chair Meredith Bonham ’92.

The task force engaged the Kenyon community with three public meetings last week, on Jan. 24, 26 and 29. Any students with suggestions on how to combat high-risk alcohol behavior on campus were encouraged to partake, both through the town hall meetings and through an internet survey sent out by the task force.

Chris Paludi ’20 was one such student. “I chose to participate in the Alcohol Task Force’s meeting because, while I don’t think that Kenyon is unsafe, I do think that many students drink dangerously, repeatedly,” Paludi said. “I believe the meeting was constructive … There was respect even when students disagreed, and ultimately I think that we all acknowledged that there aren’t any quick fixes.”

The Sunday meeting was the best-attended, Bonham said. Twelve students, one faculty member and one administrator were in attendance.

The group discussed issues surrounding drinking culture such as pre-gaming and the abuse of hard liquor during their Sunday meeting.

“My generation didn’t pre-game,” interim Co-Director of the College Counseling  Mike Durham, who serves as a member of the task force, said. “We didn’t have to, because the drinking age was 18. That’s what makes this issue so hard to solve, as the College’s students expect to be able to drink, and it’s illegal, and if you do it in your dorm room, you’re a lot less likely to get caught than anywhere else.”

Attendees gave many suggestions on addressing pre-gaming, from serving mixed drinks at all-campus parties to increasing efforts to educate students on binge drinking.

Many at the meeting also agreed that alcohol-related counseling on campus could be improved. Some ideas included student-led small groups, similar to the mental health support groups already offered by Peer Counselors (PCs) on campus, as well as expanding the role played by Beer and Sex advisors.

“I haven’t thought about my Beer and Sex advisors since the first week of freshman year, whereas PCs and SMAs [Sexual Misconduct Advisors] are people I see everywhere I go,” Benjamin Adekunle-Raji ’17 said. “Beer and Sex Advisors need to be people students feel like they can call if something happens. It’d be great for students to have that in-between instead of having to go straight to the Counseling Center.”

Some meeting attendees said Kenyon’s Greek organizations could play a crucial role in confronting the drinking culture among first years. Some floated ideas of a safe-drinking panel featuring representatives from each fraternity and sorority during orientation week. Others suggested a requirement for each organization to have a Beer and Sex advisor among their ranks, and some even suggested having inclusive Greek-supervised pre-games.

“In general, I would like to see an environment where students take care of each other,” Bonham said. “Any efforts we can make to enhance the sense of responsibility for ourselves, as well as the community as a whole, will be a success in my opinion.”

Despite the desire to improve, some members of the task force did agree that Kenyon is hardly an exception as far as drinking goes.

“We did find that our drinking culture is not too drastically different from other college campuses,” Edgar Martin ’17, a student member of the task force, said. “However, that does not necessarily mean that isn’t problematic drinking that occurs at Kenyon … our goal is to create a more holistic experience, where you are becoming an adult while you’re here.”

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