Sub-Free Options Explored

Former President Rebbeca Chopp turned heads when she signed onto the Amethyst Initiative, a compact of 139 college chancellors and presidents who support a reasonable discussion about drinking laws in America.

Now that President Jeffrey Herbst has taken office, students are questioning whether he might sign on as well.

“I’ve followed the Amethyst Initiative,” Herbst said, “but I have not signed yet.”

Herbst did say he is open to public discussion of the matter.

“I’m all in favor of public debate, as with any public issue, but there are very complex issues, some of which include, but are not limited to, the [problems] of private drinking and drunken driving,” Herbst said.

Students and administrators alike were concerned when the Campus Climate Life Survey (CCLS) was released just before Fall Break last school year. The survey revealed students might not be as happy in the “Colgate Bubble” as previously thought. In the months following the survey, there has been a noticeable shift in administrative policies regarding alcohol and substance free options across campus to counter what one student called Colgate’s “repetitive” social life.

Despite marked successes in creating new, unique events, the climate on Colgate’s campus has not responded as positively to new endeavors as administrators may have hoped. Dean of the College Charlotte Johnson chalks it up to new students on a new campus testing their new freedoms.

“There’s always that kind of experimentation that goes on,” Johnson said.

First-year Carlie Wetzel said she has been satisfied with the sub-free options available.

“I have not had to look far to find something both fun and substance-free on Colgate weekends,” Wetzel said. “The CAB Take Two movies are always a solid option and I’ve also had a blast at Games Afoot events such as game nights and capture the lighthouse.”

One student wrote in the 2009 CCLS that “Colgate students are over-stimulated with the amount of events to attend and stuff going on campus.” The student added, “Ever wonder why a lot of events aren’t successful? It’s because they are done too often…”

The University implemented a new online calendar this year, which Johnson said she hopes will increase students’ ability to pick and choose interesting substance-free events to attend – though ultimately the choice is in the hands of students.

“My suggestion is for students to filter,” Johnson said. “At some point, students have to say: ‘look, this is my social life, my co-curricular education, and I want to figure out what I want that to be.”

Herbst shares a similar philosophy – after officially taking up office about two months ago, Herbst said he met with various groups across campus to try and get to the root of the campus social scene.

“The issue of alcohol-free programming is actually something I’ve talked to a fair number of student groups about … and obviously there is a palpable desire on the part of a significant number of students for more events that do not revolve around alcohol,” Herbst said. “The problem has been in determining what those should be.”

Qualitative responses to the CCLS – which 61percent of the on-campus population completed in 2009 – seemed to echo this sentiment.

“I could complain about the awful drinking culture on campus,” one student wrote, “but I think you already know about that.”

From both administrative and student standpoints there is a desire to promote new and exciting alternatives to the Colgate party scene, but actually coming up with new programming is where members of the community are hitting a wall, despite abundant funding from the Center for Leadership and Student Involvement, as well as other sources.

“We’re still waiting and listening and asking,” Herbst said. “Adults will think up all kinds of events [that] the students will think of as lame,” adding the real solution will not come from the administration but the students themselves.