Orientation Sobriety Pledge – Give it a Shot!

By now, President Joesph Urgo’s all-student email (as well as all-staff and all-faculty email) has either been read or deleted by the campus. For those of you who may have chosen the latter option before reading it, let me briefly summarize it here. Essentially, Urgo has implemented a policy for the entire St. Mary’s community to remain alcohol-free, or “dry,” for the first four days of the 2011-2012 school year. To be clear, those first four days are orientation days, and the majority of the student population won’t even be returning until Aug. 29 anyway, which is why the email asks “first-year students, orientation leaders, and residence life staff to pledge to abstain from all substance use” during that time.

I’ll be back on campus helping to work on the orientation issue of The Point News, and I’d like to issue my total support of this policy. Though I’m under 21, and therefore I legally would be obligated to not consume alcohol regardless of the policy, I fully believe the premise behind its creation as sound and wise.

Urgo has offered a couple of reasons for policy: it’s a continuation of our college’s attempts at safe alcohol consumption. Orientation is a time for adjustment and thus a time to be alert and sober, and new friendships and identities are being cultivated which, if they are to be true, inherently calls for sobriety.

We’ve all gone through orientation, and while some of us might have preferred to have been in a drunken stupor, I think it’s extremely important to be aware of the difficulties that the first few days of college entails. A student is away from every place that is familiar, everyone they love, and essentially, everything they know. Four days of adjustment should be spent with a clear head and with sound judgment.

Additionally, with our President’s signature on the Amethyst Initiative, St. Mary’s has already offered its explicit expectation of safe alcohol consumption, and if there’s any way to describe drinking during orientation,it would not be “safe alcohol consumption.” If we expect our students to be able to responsibly drink, we must first teach them that drinking does not always mean binge-drinking, vomiting, and repeating.

Presumably, first-year students come to college with tenfold more freedom than they had in high school, and with new freedom comes new expectations of what college is like. If students come believing that their first few days are going to be spend at wild parties and with massive hangovers, they’re going to go to wild parties and get massive hangovers. If students come expecting to have four days of orientation, hopefully the adjustment will be easier, the expectations will be lower, the pressure will be off.

Finally, I’m convinced that this policy will make orientation safer; friends who have known each other for a while are able to discern when someone has maybe had a little too much, or even if someone needs medical attention. But for people who’ve known each other for less than a week it is far more difficult to know when to intervene.

I’m hoping that most of the community will not only take the pledge but also follow through, and while I know that 100 percent participation is always impossible, I think St. Mary’s is willing and able to seize this opportunity and take its mission to heart.


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