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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Alcohol Programs Aim to Change Bad Habits

Onlookers may have perceived it to be two friends safely walking home.The two friends, walking back to their house with arms wrapped around each other’s shoulders, reminisced on the night while laughing without a care in the world.

But as Joe Letter and his friend made the trek home down Airline Road from dropping off their dates, it was far from an ordinary night for the two.

“To the best of our knowledge, I tripped over a sewer grate and hit my face on the curb there,” Letter, a sophomore at SMU at the time, recalled.

The next morning, Letter woke up on the floor of his bedroom with a throbbing head and two black eyes.

On the walk home, Letter, who was 19 at the time, chipped two of his teeth, broke both of his eye sockets and cheekbones, and fractured his skull.His friend who had been walking with him did not call 9-1-1, so Letter was taken to the hospital in the morning.

“I quickly got taken to the hospital and was put under right away,” Letter said.I think it’s pretty safe to say if I hadn’t been drinking, this would’ve never happened at all.”

Alcohol consumption by minors has been a problem on college campuses throughout the United States for years and still remains an issue to this day.Universities are constantly faced with the dilemma of how to deal with the issue, including SMU.

In recent years, the SMU Health Center and administration have done everything in their power to address the problem of alcohol abuse and how to educate students on dangers and possible consequences.

Although Letter was not required to take any classes, many students who have been cited for consuming alcohol as a minor have been required to attend classes, programs and meetings with SMU counselors to gain better knowledge of alcohol consumption and its effects.

SMU’s classes and programs include meetings with licensed counselors for first-time offenders, a Saturday alcohol education class for repeat offenders, a seven-week program called CRAWL for more severe situations, and more.

The main goal of the classes at SMU is to educate students so that they will not be put in the same situation where they may be tempted to drink alcohol.

Jan McCutchin, a counselor for SMU’s Alcohol and Drug Abuse Prevention program, believes that the classes and programs are an effective way to get through to the student body.

“Our students tell us [the classes] do [have a positive effect],” McCutchin explained.“The feedback that we have been getting back from student surveys is very encouraging and some students have even said that they’re sorry to see class end.”

McCutchin also believes that talking to the students as a friend-figure can lead to more open conversations that help her assess the students more accurately.

“I try and make the students feel as comfortable as they can while talking to me,” McCutchin explained.“The more comfortable they are talking, the more accurate information I’ll receive.The more accurate information I receive, the better I can help them understand their mistakes and how to learn from them.”

Considering SMU’s heavy Greek presence on campus, some jump to the conclusion that students in these classes and programs are affiliated with fraternities and sororities, but McCutchin believes there is a diverse group.

“Obviously fraternities and sororities are social groups, so there are more opportunities for students to drink, but that doesn’t mean the members of these groups are more irresponsible compared to the rest of the student body,” McCutchin said.“Everyone makes mistakes and that’s why these programs are meant for the entire student body.”

The Interfraternity Council (IFC) at SMU also has its own way of educating the new and old members of fraternities.Throughout rush week, there are speakers who address alcohol and how one bad decision can change young men’s lives forever.

While requiring students to attend meetings, classes, and programs might not completely solve the problem, SMU has also made other adjustments to help keep campus a safer place and prevent major injury.

SMU implemented a new policy in 2008 called the “Call for Help Program” policy, which was recommended by the Task Force on Substance Abuse Prevention and accepted by President R. Gerald Turner.

The policy allows for under-aged students to seek medical assistance for themselves or another person due to alcohol intoxication, without the fear of disciplinary actions by the school.

“I think it’s a great program,” McCutchin said.“We want to remove any road block that would prevent a student from calling for a friend or even for themselves.Some bad things can happen if someone is scared to ask for help because they fear they will get in trouble.”

Sergeant Debbie Hardin, who works in the SMU Police Department, also believes the “Call for Help Program” has been beneficial to SMU.

“SMU’s Call for Help program is a good idea,” Hardin said.“The program supports students’ health and safety by encouraging students to seek medical assistance for one another. All of us at SMU are responsible for caring for ourselves and for others in our community.”

The consumption of alcohol by minors has led some to believe that this campus’ problem may not fixable with one policy, and the problem at SMU may be bigger than on other college campuses.

Letter, however, believes that most colleges face the same problems and struggles that SMU does.

“I would say all universities have a problem with under-aged drinking,” Letter said.“Drinking has been around campuses for decades and it has become somewhat of a social norm for students, whether of age or not, to drink with their peers.”

Because SMU is not the only college campus facing the problem of alcohol consumption by minors, many campuses, including SMU, work together to figure out how to address the problem.

McCutchin also points out that SMU is hard at work to find answers.

“We [SMU] are a part of the National College Health Improvement Program, which consists of about 35 other universities,” McCutchin explained.“The program was established to share knowledge and figure out what the best programs are for each individual school.”

While Letter never received any counseling or help from classes at SMU, he does agree now that he had been talked to before his accident happened.

“I wish I could’ve done things differently,” Letter said.“Obviously now I’m going to be more careful with my actions, but it would’ve been nice to have skipped the whole accident all together.If I had had someone there to tell me my risks, I could’ve avoided the situation.”

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The SMU Center for Alcohol and Drug Abuse Prevention is located on the second floor of the Memorial Health Center.

Scott Sanford is a junior journalism major, sports management minor and staff writer for Scout.com.He can be reached at [email protected]

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