Alcohol taskforce gathering information to send to administration

In response to an increased number of alcohol-related hospital visits, the Butler Alcohol Taskforce is gathering information and plans to present recommendations to administration about potential changes to Butler University’s alcohol policy by the end of the semester.

During last week’s Homecoming, some students worried that Butler would be cracking down on the festivities, often alcohol-related.

“I think the message we are most comfortable with is if you choose to consume, do so responsibly,” Dean of Student Services Sally Click said. “It’s a perpetual topic of concern.”

Chaired by Dean of Student Life Irene Stevens and Sarah Barnes-Diaz, coordinator for health education and outreach programs, the taskforce is comprised of a variety of representatives from the campus community, including Greek chapter presidents, residence life staff, Butler University Police Department, Council on Presidential Affairs, Peers Advocating Wellness for Students and faculty who have expertise in the area.

“Right now the taskforce is in the phase of examining our campus policy,” Barnes-Diaz said. “And from that, we’ll make recommendations as a taskforce about potential policy changes or amendments on campus.

“Our goal is by the end of the semester to have recommendations to send to our vice president of student affairs, Levester Johnson, with the understanding that he will be consulting with the president.”

She said Johnson and President Jim Danko will have the ability to agree or disagree with the taskforce’s recommendation.

As its name suggests, the taskforce, which was formed last March, has a clear goal in mind.

“The university wants students to be part of a safe and responsible community,” senior Josh Ruff, a student on the taskforce, said via email. “The taskforce came about as a response to the trend of increased levels of binge drinking. We’re looking at what can be done to create a safer student community here at Butler.”

In order to achieve this goal, the taskforce began gathering information this January in four primary areas: alcohol education, student culture, alcohol policy and enforcement.

But, issues with alcohol are not strictly limited to Butler.

Stevens said a majority of the data comes from surveys and research that helps to compare campus data to national and state data.

Barnes-Diaz said there seems to be a strong misconception about the taskforce.

“It was clear to me that there is a real misconception that this is a group that is coming in and frowning upon drinking and looking to crack down on campus,” Barnes-Diaz said. “I would love for that misconception to be corrected, because this is a group of faculty, staff and students representing a lot of different organizations or areas of campus which are really involved in this issue in one way or another. There are a lot of different students with a lot of different perspectives; it’s certainly not a group that is looking to make Butler a completely dry campus.”

Stevens said the addition of the taskforce raised some concerns that the campus would move toward a greater crackdown on alcohol policies or even a change in policy to a dry campus.

“Are we going to be a dry campus? I don’t think so,” she said. “That’s just not in our frame of reference at this point.”

Barnes-Diaz said the taskforce is trying to take everything into account.

“That’s the way I love to see things operate on our campus, when we really talk to students about their thoughts and feelings,” she said. “I hope that’s clear that this has been a huge part of what we’ve done, and it’s not any sort of outside entity coming in and saying, ‘I don’t care what this campus thinks or needs.’”

In the end, taskforce members said they have the best interests of students at heart and want to develop suggestions in a way that is fair, reasonable and promotes safety and healthful decisions on campus.

“As a student on the taskforce, we’re there to give the university a viewpoint that they might not otherwise see,” senior Melanie Clark said. “We’re trying to get a feel for the alcohol environment.”

Stevens agreed.

“We’re just trying to help students be safer and make better choices so they don’t end up in the hospital,” she said.

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