Editorial: University should implement, support non-alcoholic activities

The Daily Northwestern Editorial Board

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More than 20 students have been transported to the hospital for alcohol-related reasons this academic year, a leap from the nine students who required transports during Fall Quarter 2010. Dean of Students Burgwell Howard has addressed the issue in a series of emails to the off-campus Northwestern community:

“In September and early October our campus experienced a disturbing uptick in alcohol related issues (citations for public urination & disturbing the peace, transports to the hospital for over-consumption or injuries, and noise concerns). Thankfully, in the last 2-3 weeks those issues have somewhat leveled off, in large part because of the efforts of students living in the community,” he wrote in a Nov. 4 email.

The Daily appreciates Howard’s open discussion of the issue, and recognizes the number, as with most statistics, likely fails to tell a complete or fair story. The uptick in alcohol-related transports does not necessarily mean more students are drinking irresponsibly; more transports could mean more students recognize the symptoms of over-consumption in friends and seek medical attention when needed. However, The Daily hopes administration and students alike use this as an opportunity to accelerate the implementation of funding for more dry weekend activities on campus.

According to a 2010 survey on the undergraduate student website, 23 percent of NU students did not drink alcohol. That means about 2,000 students could benefit from a program such as Night Owl, a budding NU student group aiming to host late-night, alcohol-free events. Such activities are hosted by several residential colleges but are only open to their residents; a campus-wide group would benefit students who seek an alternative to alcohol-related activities.

Having a program like this in place will ensure that future incoming classes have a more a balanced perspective on NU social life — one that includes both drinking and non-drinking activities. For those students who choose not to to drink, and even those who occasionally want to opt out of drinking for the weekend, both implementing and supporting these programs is essential. Although the University’s participation in organizations like the Dartmouth Learning Collaborative is essential to an academic discussion of making drinking cultures safer on college campuses, programming like Night Owl offer a more tangible, concrete application of that dialogue.

This campus witnessed a harrowing reminder of the dangers of high-risk drinking in 2008 when SESP freshman Matthew Sunshine died due to alcohol poisoning in his Rogers House dorm room. The University renewed its commitment to creating a safer drinking culture on campus in the wake of that tragedy, both as part of its no-fault settlement with the Sunshine family and out of its own interest in protecting the student body. Funding and supporting non-alcohol related programming is an important part of honoring that promise.