The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

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Task Force misses the target

Late on Feb. 1, SMU’s Task Force on Substance Abuse Prevention released a report giving recommendations for improving campus issues such as drinking and drugs that stemmed from three deaths last year. The ideas presented to President Turner included opening an on-campus pub, scheduling more Friday classes, more homework, taking attendance in classes and more final exams. Although some of these suggestions sound helpful, many do not address the heart of the issue.

The deaths on SMU’s campus were caused by people with addictions or a misunderstanding of the consequences of drugs and alcohol. Therefore, changing class schedules and taking attendance will not prevent any deaths on SMU’s campus. The alcohol problems and the class schedule debate are two separate issues.

While the on-campus pub seems like a fun idea, many agree that it encourages drinking, rather than hindering it. At the Margarita Ranch restaurant and bar near SMU, general manager Doug Sinclair said, “They’re not curbing anything, and they’re not fixing anything. If anything, they’re promoting drinking.” Also, many people who live on campus are freshmen living in dorms who are too young to drink. However, supporters say that “the environment of an on-campus pub would foster responsible drinking in a casual setting.” This would exclude much of SMU’s younger student body and many sororities and fraternities go out to meet with incoming freshmen. The report states that, “a secondary benefit to an on-campus pub would be the mingling of students and professors outside of the classroom. It says such an environment would break down the division between social and academic life at SMU.” As an SMU student, I have no desire to hang out with my professors after classes. If anything, this breeds inappropriate behavior between teachers and students. Furthermore, many students might not want to go at all if the pub turns into a regular hangout for professors.

After skipping classes occasionally as a freshman, I learned quickly that skipping classes means missing information and ultimately not doing well on exams. Many professors do not take attendance, relying on students to take their college classes into their own account. If they miss class, it is their fault if they have poor grades. With the idea of Friday classes, the task force did not take into account how many students can’t take Friday classes because they have jobs or internships. Making students come to class and take classes on Friday will not prevent alcohol or drug abuse. The extreme concerns of drugs and alcohol are, in fact, only a small portion of SMU’s population. With the media shedding so much light on the deaths of three students, it’s hard to understand that SMU is not a party school. SMU has been given a bad reputation that it doesn’t deserve. Many students work or are on scholarships, so the issues of attendance and Friday classes really do not affect them at all. The heavy drinking is usually restricted to students with a lot of extra income and no time commitments outside of schoolwork.

Some of the task force’s suggestions were well thought out. Such as the “Good Samaritan” program, which means that students can call for help if their friends have overdosed without facing any consequences.

However, many students would like to voice their opinions and weigh in on the issues that will affect everyone on campus. In October 2007, the task force held an open forum to discuss prevention of drugs and alcohol. Unfortunately the turnout was extremely low, so much of SMU’s student body was not there to comment on what needs to be done to change SMU for the better. SMU as a whole needs to rally behind the changes that are to be made on campus. It is evident that many students are simply unaware of the problems on campus and perhaps if these issues could be better understood by the students they would be more responsible. An online survey sent to students by e-mail would allow students to make some suggestions and give their input to the situation.

Compared with students at peer campuses, SMU students are less likely to work and have more disposable income, which can create more chances for alcohol abuse. So, creating a better sense of a community is a good idea – but excluding everyone under the age of 21 with an on-campus pub will truly defeat the purpose. Having more activities on campus that do not involve drinking is a better approach to the problem.

The Harvard School of Public Health Study found that “1700+ students die each year from alcohol related incidents.” Therefore SMU is not alone in alcohol-related deaths. Organizations such as the Gordie Foundation encourage young adults to look out for one another while adopting moderate drinking habits. This promotes the idea that, while it is OK to have fun, knowing your limit can save your life.

SMU needs to understand while we have problems on our campus, we also have a student body dedicated to studying and participating in student activities. Instead of highlighting the bad events that occurred, students need to be educated and informed, and, at the same time, promote the wonderful things that are done on campus. Simply changing class schedules will obviously not affect those with extreme addictions or those who simply don’t take class seriously. In order to satisfy SMU’s campus we must come together as a whole to make these decisions.

Helene Flournoy is a junior CCPA major. She can be reached for comment at [email protected].

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