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Our Opinion: Semi-Formal Success Provides Model

By The Editorial Board Posted: 11/23/2009
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When it was revealed that for the first time in at least eight years no student was hospitalized due to alcohol-related incidents during the annual freshman semi-formal, we were more than a little surprised. Most Emory students remember their own freshman semi-formals as a fun get-together at a well-known Atlanta establishment (for the last few years, the Fernbank Museum of National History) with free food, dancing and most likely some smuggled alcohol; most Residence Life and Emory Medical Services staff, however, remember past freshman semi-formals for the abundance of alcohol-related emergencies and hospitalizations that followed.

Historically, this event typically ends with at least several hospital visits by binging freshmen, who succeeded in sneaking alcohol on the buses and into the building. The responsibility for keeping the event as problem-free as possible has always been on those chaperoning semi-formal, the students who make up the Residence Life staff; through little fault of their own, they have had to deal with the after-effects resulting from the minority of students who have failed to follow the rules or adhere to principles of basic common sense. And while even Andy Wilson, the director of Residence Life, admitted that it’s impossible to know the exact reason behind the lack of alcohol-related incidents, we feel that the approach taken in administering this semi-formal reflected a refreshing realism with regard to student alcohol use.

For example, Residence Life staff took active measures from the beginning to try to limit the amount of alcohol that even made it to the event, not allowing students on buses if they were clearly intoxicated or attempting to bring alcohol on board. And while its impossible to know how much of a difference this made — no one is going to make the claim that freshman semi-formal actually was an alcohol-free-zone, or that enforcement of anti-alcohol measures were uniformly stringent — the fact that Residence Life took direct and up-front responsibility for student alcohol use provided a refreshing contrast with the approach taken so often by the administration with regard to campus alcohol use.

As much as we rail against University alcohol policies, last week’s freshman semi-formal was an example of doing things right. Ultimately, those freshmen who wished to enjoy a weekend night without alcohol were provided with a fine venue and an ideal opportunity with which to do so, which is crucial if anyone expects students to actually choose sober alternatives to drinking. It would be a mistake to get too carried away with the results of one freshman semi-formal — for all we know, the lack of hospitalizations could have been a complete aberration, while there were still violations reported around campus — but hopefully the approach taken last week provides a useful model for administering future, similar events.

The above staff editorials represent the majority opinion of the Wheel’s Editorial Board.

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