Iturrey: Counterproductive Change
By Alesy Iturrey, Staff Columnist
Published on Tuesday, July 24, 2012
Last week, Dean of the College Charlotte Johnson announced harm reduction reforms concerning the Greek Letter Organizations and Societies’ alcohol and intervention policies. The Greek Leadership Council invited students, ranging from the highly involved to those unaffiliated with the Greek system, to participate in a forum regarding the changes that will be implemented this fall. If the proposed policies take effect as they stand now, Safety and Security patrols in all residential areas will increase and certified bartenders will be required at registered events. Though not discussed at the forum and separate from the alcohol policy changes, the College also recently announced the removal of funding for Green Team at unregistered parties. By minimizing funding for student mediation programs and increasing the involvement of authorities, the actions meant to reduce harm will unfortunately produce the opposite effect.
Green Team, a beneficial harm reduction program utilized in many fraternities and social spaces around campus, consists of a group of sober monitors at parties that not only make sure that students are participating in responsible drinking, but also observe student behavior to ensure safety against harassment and alcohol-related incidents. Green Team members are trained to survey student gatherings and help manage the risks involved with drinking. They also notify the authorities if sexual assault takes place or students are dangerously intoxicated.
As an entirely student-run organization, Green Team effectively mediates between students and authorities. Although each student is liable for his or her own decisions, Green Team protects the safety of students without making the environment uncomfortable and without hampering the relationship between students and administrators. It is the responsibility and ultimate liability of each organization to regulate its parties, but Green Team is a program that helps reduce harm in our community. The fact that this program is utilized by multiple organizations demonstrates the maturity and conscientiousness of students who are eager to protect the safety of their peers.
By removing some of its financial support for Green Team, the College is increasing the risk associated with binge drinking. The drinking culture is not altered through increased punishments for breaking the rules. Rather, it is mitigated through the trust and guidance of responsible individuals and proper reconciliation with administrative authorities. Because it is made up of Dartmouth students, Green Team does not intrude in social gatherings and instead serves as a source of support.
With the College’s full support, Green Team has been able to effectively mediate situations that are inherently more dangerous without putting any individuals in our community at risk. In this sense, fully supporting Green Team is the most progressive action the College has taken to curb the negative effects of binge drinking.
Meanwhile, by implementing random Safety and Security walkthroughs, the College will seem less like an enjoyable living space and more like an over-regulated institution. These uninvited intrusions will only breed mistrust of the administration and inflate the role of campus authority. While the College’s promotion of safety and wellbeing within our community is well-intended, it is being executed incorrectly. Such policies will not keep students from partaking in binge drinking. They will only force students to participate in drinking in dorm rooms or private settings, without the promise of any form of social monitoring. There will be less demand for beer and substances with lower alcohol content and higher demand for liquor. In attempts to keep actions inconspicuous, students will instead take shots of hard liquor as quickly as possible. This increases the risk of heavy intoxication and other forms of harm, such as sexual assault.
In Dean Johnson’s and the College’s defense, the policies they wish to execute are designed to ensure student safety — the appropriate goal in any plan of action. However, the implementation of random Safety and Security walkthroughs, the requirements of paid caterers and bartenders and the reduction of Green Team funding will be ineffective and counterproductive and instead will put students’ lives at greater risk. The most endangering behavior involving alcohol occurs at events and social spaces that are not regularly monitored by peer mediators. Instead of removing programs that have been proven to reduce harm in our community, students should work with an open-minded administration eager to negotiate better reforms.