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Consider the following account, written by a staff member in Dining Services, which appeared in one of the incident reports that Public Safety filed this weekend:

Saturday night in Ross dining hall I witnessed several intoxicated students. I saw one student taking a whole bottle of half and half and asked him why he was taking a whole bottle and he rudely told me that it was for making drinks and walked away from me. Three students started wrestling in the middle of the floor right after we had opened and I had to ask them to break it up. One student fell out of his chair while eating. Another approached me at the pizza station and told me that he was too drunk to eat and that the pizza he was getting was for another student that was too drunk to get his own food. We had several broken dishes due to students dropping them throughout the night. At about 5:45 there were two tables of intoxicated students throwing food across the dining hall; when I approached them they denied throwing any food although I saw them do it. At about 6:30 a student entered the dining hall with his pockets full, so I watched where he sat down and a few minutes later had to ask him and his friends to leave the dining hall because they were shot gunning beers at their table. By the end of the night we had collected about 12-15 beer cans from the dining hall and off of the tray return area as well as an empty fifth of vodka. At the end of the night the dining hall was a disaster. There was food all over the place, dirty dishes, broken dishes and empty beer cans everywhere. Overall the students were very loud and disrespectful and many of them smelled very strongly of alcohol.

I’ve argued on this blog that our campus suffers when responsible drinking disappears from civic spaces (see What’s In A Beer). But something worse happens when alcohol generates the kind of conduct described here: we lose our capacity to imagine a better, more fulfilling social life.

By the way, it’s worth noting that Ross dining hall is a licensed facility—like a bar or restaurant—which means that these students violated Vermont law (as well as College policy) by bringing alcohol into the space. Ironically, the College acquired a liquor license for the dining hall so that alcohol could be more easily (and responsibly) served at Ross social events.

Saturday night’s episode is outrageous in several ways. Have these students no regard for anyone but themselves? How could Middlebury students be so disrespectful of staff? And the obvious question: what does this example of collective intoxication tell us about drinking habits on this campus?

When considered alongside other examples of excessive drinking, this incident suggests that it’s time for our community to have a sustained conversation about the use and abuse of alcohol. I would like to know from readers what might the best way to approach this discussion. How can we make a difference?

Your comments?

11 Responses to “Self-Governance: A Pressing Need?”

  1. Anonymous says:

    This is so troubling it’s hard to know where to start.

    That any employee should ever have to endure this kind of abusive treatment is unacceptable. There should be a zero-tolerance policy and I would hope that Public Safety and, if necessary, the Middlebury Police would be ready to help — and that employees in this type of situation would not hesitate to call them. I hope that since there were plenty of eyewitnesses who can identify the people involved they will face serious sanctions.

    The fact that this many students were intoxicated and out of control by 6:30 p.m. is pathetic and scary. How wretched for anyone who had to deal with them.

    I know we’re looking for the big ideas here on how to re-shape campus cultural views on alcohol, but I would begin with sending a strong message that anyone, sober or drunk, who abuses staff members, does not deserve the privilege of being a student at Middlebury.

  2. Anonymous says:

    I doubt that this kind of behavior is representative of the student body as a whole. Ross Dining, in some ways, suffers from being connected to the dormitories in its commons. Has a similar incident ever occurred (in the last 5 years) in either Proctor, FIC, or Atwater?

    What an embarrassment.

  3. Class of 2009 says:

    Almost every one of these disrespectful situations could have been dealt with quickly and effective as they were taking place. Rather than watching students shotgun beers or abuse school property while intoxicated, a simple call to Public Safety by the dining hall staffperson would have provided the necessary discipline, and removed the students from the dining hall. Nothing puts a damper on a Friday night like a citation at 6.30 p.m.

  4. Michael says:

    Interesting, but no shocker to me… if the issue is solely alcohol are we then to assume that we (and by this I mean every member of the campus, staff, faculty, students, administrators, parents, alumns …) are victems of the substance. I would argue that a focus solely on the alcohol removes the resonsiblity and accountability of the behavior…if alcohol were not a factor would a different result/resoulution have been metered out. Why less so than when alcohol mitigates the circumstance? This focus on the alcohol then allows alcohol use as scapegoat for bad behavior or even a higher tolerance for bad behavior when alcohol is involved. Let’s face it… everyone at Middlebury not just the student know bad behavior when we see it.

    I can’t count how many times I’ve heard comments to the effect “I was soo drunk that I … (fill in the blank).” Well folks drunk or not you did what you did and we as a community need to decide if this is the behavior that will be accepted.

    In my opinon the charator and mindset on this campus when it comes to alcohol and especially alcohol related behavior, on the part of students, administrators, staff, faculty, parents and alumns is more of alcohol as an excuse. Let’s all deal with the issue for what it is… behavior.

    So where others say “A quick call to Public Safety would of ended it.” I point out that this simply moves the responsibility from where it truely rest. The person behaving out of acceptable norms. In this case however I would submit that as it appears that no other student stepped up to intervene and knowing how staff have by example time and time again experienced a lack of support in holding up a higher standard of behavior on the part of the student body, that this behavior is to be tollerated to one degree or another. In the same manner that perhaps faculty deal with late assignments or a lecture to a hungover audiance.

    How often do CRA’s, FYC, Custodial Staff, Suite Mates & Dorm Mates simply accept a weekend bathroom filled with vomit, blood, feces in the sink because the toilets are out of order due to an alcohol related “mishap”? More often than we are willing or collectively able to admit I should expect. Check the figures on damages attributed to vadalism which although statistical inferences may not be sound, common sense will corralate the rise in damages with the amount of alcohol.

    When I leave my post in dining in the wee hours of the morning following a party night I have learned that I may very well encounter feces or vomit in a stairwell on my way out of the building. Is this ok with me, no. But until we all hold each other accountable in the moment and not pass the buck on to the staff at hand or to Public Safety, I am educated enough to watch were I step on the weekends.

    I for one would love to participate in an honest dialoge… provide we are talking about behaviors… my personal opinion is that if you want to drink fine… if you want to behave badly and blame your behavior on what you drank than I have no empathy or even sympathy for you or those who tollerate your behavior, and here I apply this not to just students but society and our community at Middlebury as a whole.

  5. Anonymous says:

    Class of 2009…..wait a second. It’s the fault of the dining hall’s staff for letting this situation escalate?

    So much for personal accountability.

  6. Sophomore Feb says:

    What bothers me most is that these people were actively disrespectful. I honestly don’t care when and where people drink, but being rude to our wonderful dining staff is terrible. This is not what Middlebury should be about.

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