Editorials: Will there be a new approach to alcohol under Schapiro?

Time for fresh alcohol approach

As a University with such a richly dry history, Northwestern is no stranger to stringent standards like the Wildcat Safety Course and the three-week-long Freshman Freeze. But with NU’s pressured policies, students can’t help but feel uneasy and constrained by the inflamed risk of drinking both on and off campus. There is an eerie aura around NU that scares away even the notion of alcohol that isn’t secretly swigged in some basement or other sound-blocking, windowless chamber.

In effect, the present environment encourages anyone interested in drinking to move their activities off campus. The situation is self-perpetuating. Afraid of the repercussions of drinking on campus, students instead opt to drink in unfamiliar environments that may actually be much more unsafe than dorms. When off campus, trained CAs or even student EMTs aren’t on hand to help if students overdo it – the inebriated depend on friends to care for them. Bad choices likely ensue, hospital visits are made, students are likely disciplined and reckless behavior is pushed further to the fringe.

Simply put, NU students need constructive change that is not just codified in creative re-wording of preexisting policies. NU should foster an environment both on and off campus that promotes both alcohol awareness and safety. Change the environment to establish a new trust – the University trusts students to maintain responsible drinking and students then trust the administration to play its part in a measured way when we lose that control. Rather than simply laying down swift justice to those who oppose the order, we must reassess the relationship between students and the administration that polices them, and develop creative solutions that shape communities and perceptions rather than tighten rules.

No matter what, college students will drink irresponsibly. But other universities, such as University President Morton O. Schapiro’s former home at Williams College, have not only allowed the consumption of alcohol at registered events but have also extended amnesty to students in need of medical attention due to alcohol poisoning. While it’s foolhardy to hope Willie the Wildcat will be waiting at the gates of Ryan Field to hand you a cold one, we can a hope for a campus that acknowledges the presence of alcohol and provides the necessary atmosphere to stay safe and encourage healthy decisions.

Help ring in new president

To the average NU student, the weekend is a time to relax, party, study or do whatever you like. Schapiro’s inauguration as the 16th NU president probably isn’t at the top of your agenda. As Schapiro himself told The Daily, at most inaugurations “you look out on the audience and you have a lot of faculty and you have a lot of staff, and you have board members and alumni and donors and friends, but you have almost no students.”

The University has pulled out all the stops to hold inauguration events that students will actually want to attend, including John Legend’s Friday night concert in Welsh-Ryan Arena and a “Schapiro Challenge” relay race at halftime during Saturday’s football game. The inauguration ceremony itself Friday afternoon is a chance for you to get to know Schapiro and understand how he plans to lead the school. Schapiro has already made it clear through his visibility on campus and in Evanston that he is committed to active engagement with the student body. So here’s your chance to find out how his presence will impact you.

One way or another, Schapiro wants to see you this weekend: “They’re not going to come out to hear me,” he joked. “But maybe they’ll come out to hear Friedman.”