Death at Ball State causes concerns at Butler

Cause for concern: Student's death at Ball State University has caused university administration to think about drinking. (Photo courtesy of MCT)

Drinking on college campuses is being thought about a little differently since the death of an Indiana University student who was visiting Ball State University.

Substance abuse in college is difficult to treat as purely a law enforcement issue, but after the death of a student perhaps it should be treated that way.

Many people across college campuses are now talking about the issue of teen drinking and how schools can keep their students safe without arresting half of their student population.

The death of a student is not a subject taken lightly.

“Losing a student, it’s just the worst thing that could possibly happen,” Vice President of Student Affairs Levester Johnson said.

To prevent a similar situation at Butler, the university is encouraging students to ask for help when they need it.

Officials agree that they would rather see students ask for and receive the help they need than see a student die because no one knew they needed help or they were too afraid to ask.

“Students often wonder, ‘Do I call if my friend is sick and vomiting? Because I don’t want to get in trouble,’” Ben

Hunter, director of public safety and chief of police, said. “But we can’t run the risk of having a student die. How are you going to feel if that incident occurs?”

Butler University encourages the policy of a community of care through its various peer education programs like Peers Advocating Wellness for Students (PAWS), Red Cup Culture and Greeks as Educators, Advocates and Resources (GEAR).

Butler also promotes the Facebook group “Good Clean Fun,” which educates students on alternate late night events, as opposed to drinking.

“At Butler we don’t expect students to consume alcohol and it’s not something they have to do to fit in and to have a really rich social experience,” Sarah Barnes, coordinator for health education and outreach programs, said. “But that if the student does choose to consume alcohol they should do so responsibly.”

PAWS created the Red Cup Culture program to not only educate students on the affects and consequences of drinking, but also the severe risks of drinking past the point of responsibility.

The programs teach students how to take care of themselves and their peers.

“I think that you put yourself at high risk when you drink,” freshman Emily Sharkey said. “But if you’re responsible enough to not over-drink it’s OK.

“I don’t think it’s worth it, but it’s everyone’s own choice and responsibility.”

The program advocates the idea of the Butler community of care, explaining the signs of alcohol poisoning and not only how to help someone who is clearly inebriated, but also where to go for help in the event of alcohol poisoning.

“For students who do not wish to drink, we want to be as supportive as possible, and for students who do want to drink, we say ‘don’t do it alone,’” Bulter University President Bobby Fong said.

PAWS is also kicking off a new campaign during Homecoming Week called “Over It.” The campaign was developed two years ago, by the journalism class Strategic Communication for Nonprofits called.

PAWS is partnering with the Student Government Association on the campaign to encourage responsible drinking, discuss both the major and everyday consequences of high-risk drinking and talk about the kinds of consequences they are “over” dealing with.

PAWS creates and participates in many programs similar to “Over It” because it focuses on Butler’s campus as a whole.

GEAR, on the other hand, focuses on peers being a resource for their Greek chapter and organizations.

Butler University does not condone underage drinking as it is illegal, Barnes said. But she said it does encourage students to make intelligent, informed decisions and to know when to ask for help.

Butler begins to promote the community of care from the moment new students walk on campus.

“When I’m not there, when my staff isn’t there it becomes a community effort,” Hunter said.

When parents or other authority figures aren’t present, it’s up to students to be responsible for themselves and the friends they are with.

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