At 12:17 a.m. on Friday night, a cruiser pulled up to the Bookstore. The lights on the front read “Apartments.” It was going exactly where I was. I hopped on and sat in the front row. A few more kids trickled on. There was light drunk-fueled chatter and some classic rock on the radio. I would be home in less than seven minutes. I felt safe.
Suddenly, before pulling away, the driver stood up and walked to the backseat of the bus. A girl was laying there, passed out. None of us had seen her. The driver tried to wake her up. Then, she turned to us. “Does anyone know this girl?” the driver asked. Some first-year claimed they recognized her and the driver was satisfied. She returned to her seat and started driving.
I had no idea how long she’d been there or who she was. I heard the other first-years ask her if she was okay. They whispered among themselves and decided to help her get home when they got up the hill. Soon enough, I was at my stop. I turned around before getting off. The girl was still slumped over. I went into my apartment, feeling uneasy. I forgot about it soon after. I told myself it wasn’t a big deal. That’s when I realized there was a bigger problem.
This isn’t a unique phenomenon. I’m sure anyone reading this can recall a story of a similar nature. And that’s why I think it’s something that should be talked about. There’s a fine line between a funny drunk story and a genuine safety threat. And sure, there’s a certain level of debauchery that can be chalked up to being in college. People get too drunk every night, everywhere. It’s not unique to Colgate, but our solutions could be.
There are lots of efforts on this campus to protect students and keep them safe and I certainly don’t want to take away from those. Greek organizations and other institutions have incredible systems in place to protect the safety of their members. But I think there are a lot of people who fall through the cracks. First-years particularly. They don’t have the protection and the structure to keep them safe the way upperclassmen do. Especially in their first few months at Colgate, they are just meeting people for the first time and often don’t have a secure group of friends.
It wasn’t the cruiser driver’s job to take care of the girl on Friday night and bring her home. Cruiser drivers ensure our well-being by their safe-driving, not drunk-babysitting. It was responsible that the driver checked on her and it was fortunate that the other passengers identified her. But that situation could have easily been a lot less lucky.
I’m not writing this article to criticize any of the people involved in this situation. I think everyone handled it incredibly well. But I think that I, and all of us, can do more. First, I think our culture needs to stop turning dangerous drunk debauchery into funny stories. It normalizes the message that getting too drunk, passing out or being irresponsible is okay and even “cool.” Second, I think Colgate could do more to protect first-years and all of its students from the dangerous side of the college drinking scene. With Spring Party Week- end coming up, I think this is something worth resolving, both on an individual and institutional level. Every college first-year will eventually learn from their mistakes with alcohol, but it doesn’t necessarily have to be “the hard way.”
Contact Kara Schindler at [email protected]