I did something unusual for a college senior this semester and scheduled a Saturday morning class. On the first day, the professor popped in a video about alcohol. The piece was from "20/20" and aired in 2004. It featured drinking experiences common to campuses across the United States.
Colorado State was the opening site where a student death from excessive drinking at a fraternity party turned fatal. Pre-gaming and drunken students were at the forefront in Wisconsin, labeled the No. 1 party school not long ago. Although Penn State was not specifically mentioned, it is easy to try and substitute us for any of those other campuses. We are not like them.
Through investigation in my duties as student body president, no one has given me the magic bullet solution to this issue. Town and gown have long focused on the issue of alcohol in our community. Distractions seemed to always conveniently disrupt progress.
Recently, National Public Radio produced an unflattering program about Penn State during a typical football weekend. Instead of focusing on the negative associations that the label “No. 1 party school” brings, I propose that this is a unique position for Penn State to accept the mantle of national leadership in addressing excessive alcohol consumption. This is the kind of challenge Penn Staters embrace.
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Community partnerships are taking action against the creeping social blight and I can assure you that I have not put my head in the sand and become a drinking culture denier. I have attended countless discussions big and small about the strategies that can be used to limit the fallout from Penn State undergraduates on State College and University Park.
Unfortunately, most people would not be surprised that the great majority of these talks bring up social norms and attribute them to actions performed by extreme people.
Recently the tide of these conversations has begun to change and I have great confidence in our ability to succeed. Current alumni, administrators and students are through with conversations that went nowhere for years on end. Money will no longer be thrown at failing solutions. The same programs and same conversations that produced the same results are finished.
Undergraduates, who in the past may have addressed the alcohol situation by having a one-time program, have been taking charge in looking to promote a new culture around safety and alcohol. Students are finding new solutions, like they have always done. The Interfraternity Council created a new social policy, greatly enhancing safe measures surrounding fraternity parties.
The University Park Undergraduate Association teamed with CATA and Penn State Transportation to launch a late night White Loop service that alleviates students failing to make the bus and then remaining downtown or in neighborhoods.
I am encouraged by the sea change visible in the people working on excess consumption solutions. Together as a community it is time to take a fresh approach to the alcohol culture. It is my belief that through realistic plans, Penn State and borough leaders can demonstrate a better path.
Gavin Keirans is the Penn State student body president. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.