Please Drink…Responsibly

Geoff Guenther

It has been almost seven years since the tragic DWI-related car crash that killed four students and shocked Colgate’s campus. On October 22, an exhibit entitled Friends, about that car crash and the unintended consequences of using alcohol and driving is coming to Colgate. The exhibit, which is about five years old, was created by the Louis Henry Morgan Institute of the SUNY Institute of Technology and by the families of the students who died in the crash.

“The main purpose of the exhibition is to make college-age students aware of how quickly the lives of those involved in DWI tragedies, as well as those of families and friends of the victims, can change,” the exhibit’s website says. Friends includes a timeline of the crash as well as information about the individual lives of the four students who died: Katie Almeter, Emily Collins, Kevin King and Rachel Nargiso.

“The message of the exhibit is friends need to take care of friends,” Colgate Coordinator of Alcohol and Drug Education Jane Jones said.

The Friends exhibit, which is located in the Case Library and Geyer Center for Information Technology, will officially open with a ceremony on October 22. It is, however, just one of many alcohol awareness initiatives happening on campus as part of an “Alcohol Awareness Month” beginning that day.

Katie’s Garden, the garden between Alumni Hall and West Hall, which memorializes the four students who died in the 2000 crash, will be illuminated for the duration of the exhibit. A drawing made by one of the students killed, which depicts the three girls as senior citizens, will also be put on display there.

On November 12, a memorial service will take place marking the seventh anniversary of the crash. Senior Kathleen Cole will install markers that she made as part of her senior art project to commemorate the site of the crash on Oak Drive.

“Social norming” posters, which provide statistics about Colgate students and drinking, will return this year. Last year’s posters featured popular characters from TV’s “Grey’s Anatomy” and “Entourage” as well as the film “Anchorman” and contained statistics showing that most Colgate students don’t believe that drinking makes them more attractive and that most drink fewer than ten drinks per week.

The alcohol awareness message of some other events is slightly less obvious.

October 25 will bring the return of “Tricky Treating,” a sort of treasure-hunt game in which teams of students compete to figure out clues and win a $500 cash prize. Jones, who organized the event, assures students that all buildings that are needed will be unlocked for the event, as there was an issue in that regard last year.

On October 30, inspirational comedian Jud Laipply, whose video “The Evolution of Dance” has received over 60 million hits on YouTube.com, will perform in Memorial Chapel.

There will also be what Jones calls “a night of chocolate,” in which student groups and local food services will compete to see who can make the best chocolate dessert.

These events are organized by the Wellness Initiative and funded by the offices of the President and the Vice-President of the University.

“The idea is to let students know that you can have fun without alcohol,” Jones said. “You can have memorable nights and things to talk about without alcohol. It’s about getting together, having some fun and doing something different.”

The idea, for her, is not to regurgitate frightening facts and data about alcohol to students, but to make them look at things from a different perspective, a notion that Vice President and Dean of the College Charlotte Johnson also shares.

“Our policy is more about educating students as to the dangers of drinking and not the punishments,” Johnson said. “We want students to have individual responsibility for their actions. We believe in responsibility, and we want students to know that there is no penalty for helping a friend who is in danger [from drinking].”

“We don’t believe in scare tactics,” Jones said. “The fact is that most students are making good decisions, and they are the ones who aren’t getting the credit.”