To the editor:
Miami’s drinking problem is about as well concealed as photos of students on Facebook with emojis edited over the Trashcans in their hands. We can see this crisis in the “Natty Light” cans erupting from lawns like spring mushrooms, jersey-clad students strolling Uptown on a sunny Saturday afternoon amid headlines reporting sexual assaults, injuries and death.
This year, our conversation surrounding recent tragedies has been earnest, compassionate and forward-thinking, but it has also continued to be disempowered by a firm student culture that sees blackout drinking as inevitable and individual. It doesn’t take a visionary to see that something is rotten in Oxford (besides the stench of skunk). A culture that individualizes and normalizes risk is more toxic than one individual’s behavior, but it doesn’t take a radical optimist to believe we can change.
So what can we do? We can certainly demand more from our administration, but we can also demand more from ourselves. We have the obligation to do so, for our university, our town and for our peers. It does require improving our current policies, such as pushing for alcohol education to be more realistic and ultimately taking responsibility for the culture of our student body. Unless we all invest in that culture, we will continue to lose our friends, our classmates, our roommates, our brothers and sisters.
As such, we demand the following:
We demand that the university invest in mental health by allocating funding to Student Counseling Services. Until professionals are equipped to address the full extent of students’ mental needs and wellness, we cannot begin to tackle the issues at hand. Mental health is health, and the care we provide our student body through preventative care and stress management can mitigate dangerous alcohol use.
We demand that alcohol education be modified to take a more realistic approach by educating students about the medical signs of alcohol poisoning. In concert with teaching how to avoid drinking too much, we must empower students to act when they or a friend overindulge. We also demand that students take responsibility for their choices, and in doing so, realize that safety of an individual is a collective responsibility.
We demand a reevaluation of the Good Samaritan Policy. Remove the single use limit, reduce the financial repercussions of mandatory alcohol education, adjust that program to be rehabilitating rather than punitive and limit the mitigating circumstances that can revoke immunity. When you or a friend needs emergency medical treatment, the financial and legal consequences of decisions you made an hour ago should never cross your mind. Make the call.
We also encourage Miami University to reconfigure its alcohol violation codes and focus primarily on the risk of the behavior, correcting the student accordingly. Similarly, we encourage hosts of off-campus parties to serve alcohol responsibly by allowing everyone to mix their own drinks.
The university has the ability to jump start social change through student-oriented policy without compromising its own obligations. If they are inclined to change, we believe that administrative policies can have positive social impact, but we also believe in the progressive ideals that back those policies. Every one of us is accountable for embodying those principles, and when we fail, we preclude the success of policy decisions.
For 24 hours on Green Beer Day, a group of diverse organizations will be handing out water and information about the Good Samaritan policy to students returning from and going Uptown. However, what we’re doing is not about the water any more than drinking is about the alcohol. It’s about trying to find a community unique to our seven square miles. It’s about healing, about, yes, love and honor, about safety, joy and purposefulness.
We demand an intentional, responsible culture.