I believe we are at a tipping point at Middlebury. This moment and opportunity will require real commitment and the generation of creative and serious solutions as we look for ways to improve student-life options on campus. The process began last year with the alcohol survey and the student forum on alcohol—and is continuing now in all sectors of the College.
Although the discussion has focused primarily on alcohol use, it touches on so many other aspects of social life. I would like to open the conversation, engaging as many of you as possible in finding workable solutions.
It is clear to me that addressing this campus issue will take the commitment, energy, and creativity of many members of our community in order to find good answers—that not only make social life more engaging here but that also foster independence and accountability among students.
My blog today includes the letter that I recently sent to the campus community about the Task Force on Alcohol and Social Life (below). I’m calling on students to step up and offer ideas and views in the comments section here, on MiddBlog, and through The Campus. Please feel free also to speak with any of the task force members or to visit me during my office hours.
Let’s see how many different, thoughtful ideas we can generate. I’m looking forward to hearing from you.
Dear faculty, staff, and students:
Last year we began important discussions about the relationship of alcohol to social life at Middlebury. This process began with an alcohol survey in the fall of 2010 and concluded with a well-attended student forum on alcohol in the spring of 2011. Energetic conversation on the subject was augmented by coverage in The Campus and in MiddBlog.
This year we wish to move these conversations toward constructive, realistic, and practical responses. In the process, we seek to answer these questions:
- What role should alcohol play in the social life of our students?
- How might we improve social events with and without alcohol?
- What are the options for students who do not wish to drink?
As recently reported in The Campus and in MiddBlog, I have formed the Task Force on Alcohol and Social Life, composed of students, faculty, and staff to:
- Review the quality and variety of social options on campus (as well as how social events are marketed)
- Assess the positive and negative roles that alcohol plays in student social experience
- Propose new or revised policies, procedures, and support structures that effectively address student, faculty, and staff concerns
I am very pleased to announce that Dean of Students Katy Smith Abbott and Coach Bob Ritter will be co-chairing the task force. Task force members include:
- Adam Beaser, ’14
- Priscilla Bremser, Professor of Mathematics
- Susan DeSimone, Associate in Science Instruction, Biology
- Dan Gaiotti, Associate Director, Public Safety
- Carllee James, ’13
- Matt Kimble, Associate Professor of Psychology
- Nathan LaBarba, ’14
- Robert LaMoy, ’12
- Sylvia Manning, Manager, Custodial Services
- Ellen McKay, Administrative Program Coordinator, Chaplain’s Office
- Nial Rele, ’12
- Becca Shaw, ’12
- Annie Wymard, ’15
Task force members will specifically be asked to:
- Review current national and regional data on alcohol use among college students; examine evidence-based recommendations to reduce problematic drinking; evaluate the applicability of national and regional recommendations to the Middlebury setting.
- Review current alcohol policy and make suggestions for revised policies and enforcement.
- Assess the College’s approach to health and wellness education, consider programs for prevention and for those struggling with addiction.
- Develop ideas for enhancing social life, including viable options for first-year students.
- Assess the balance between fostering independence and student responsibility while ensuring the safety of all students.
- Investigate the relationship between excessive drinking and vandalism on campus, with an eye toward proposing workable solutions.
- Present additional ideas and creative solutions.
This task force will be a working and action-oriented group. In addition to carrying out the above-mentioned tasks, they will be engaging members of the community (especially students) throughout the year for feedback and ideas. A final report with recommendations will be submitted to President Liebowitz and me by late April 2012.
We are committed to this effort and hope that you will be a part of the conversation and the solutions by providing feedback and ideas along the way. Feel free to reach out to Dean of Students Katy Smith Abbott, Coach Bob Ritter, or me if you have any questions or suggestions.
Shirley M. Collado