Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Safety Is Responsibility of Entire Community

Another Saturday night. You and some friends head to M Street for a drink. By closing time, you’ve had one beer too many. During your walk back to campus up Prospect St., you’re jumped and thrown to the ground. Before you know what’s happening, the perpetrator escapes with your wallet and cell phone.

Or, in a different scenario, you and some friends attend a party in Henle. After a few hours of socializing, you go to the bathroom and hear someone sick inside. When you open the door, you see a friend passed out on the floor. GERMS soon arrives and takes the student to the hospital.

Sound familiar?

Incidents like these occur every year on college campuses across the nation. In fact, 17- to 25-year-old men and women face disproportionate risks of alcohol-related arrest, death, injuries, sexual assault, vandalism and violence.

Many view such human harm as an unchangeable fact of life in our colleges and our culture.

But we – an ad hoc group of 40 students, faculty and staff – do not accept this defeatist mindset. We think the problem is not intractable, and we’ve been meeting and discussing how members of the university community might team up to make a difference.

The fact is, most of the time most students drink responsibly. In a major survey conducted last year by the Office of Student Affairs, 76 percent of Georgetown’s student body described themselves as light to moderate drinkers. Perhaps even more telling of the kind of community we have here at Georgetown, 98 percent of Hoyas reported that they look out for friends when drinking to ensure safety.

These positive signs are often neglected in the debate about student conduct. We believe that our community has the resources right here on campus to build on these strengths and develop a comprehensive approach to promoting the safety and well-being of students.

While we are not a formal committee and do not have decision-making authority, we are willing to think outside the box and believe that grass roots student leadership is the key to real progress. During the fall semester, we organized ourselves into groups that met weekly to address four fundamental questions:

1. What can be done to renew and re-imagine the community at Georgetown, capitalizing on our traditions, resources and remarkable human talent?

2. How might we promote at Georgetown a unique first-year experience that unlocks the potential of college for students?

3. To what extent do Georgetown’s alcohol policies and their enforcement advance the university’s educational mission, and how do Georgetown’s policies compare to those of peer institutions?

4. Can we develop practical new services and new informational resources that would empower students to protect themselves and others from the health and safety risks associated with binge drinking, on- and off-campus?

Approximately 30 students have been meeting regularly to work on these questions. SFS Dean Robert Gallucci, MSB Dean Christopher Puto, Slavic Languages Professor Marcia Morris and Nursing and Health Studies faculty member Joan Riley are just some of the faculty and administrators who have been involved.

By December’s end, we developed a set of initiatives for the spring semester aimed at promoting student safety. Several students and staff have identified certain areas where lighting and call boxes can be improved. A new Department of Public Safety advisory committee has been created, with representatives appointed by GUSA. We have also helped recruit several speakers to address these issues, ranging from Dr. Richard Keeling, who spoke here this week, to Alcoholic Beverage Control Board Chair Rod Woodson, who will be speaking on Jan. 31, at 6 p.m., in the Philodemic Room.

In addition, we created several programs to promote community on campus, all of which you’ll hear more about soon via e-mail. For example, on Feb. 2, students can bring faculty members to the Georgetown-West Virginia men’s basketball game for free. First-year students also will be able to attend that game free of charge. And we have developed two free programs that allow students to bring faculty members to New South and Darnall dining halls or to Yates.

One of the most exciting successes so far is that the Office of Student Affairs has just received a grant for $300,000 to develop innovative ways to inform students about the true scope of alcohol use at Georgetown, the health risks associated with dangerous use and the many positive and powerful ways that Georgetown students promote safety when socializing. Led by Center for Personal Development Director Patrick Kilcarr, we’ll be developing that educational program this spring, along with exploring the potential and feasibility of a late-night, walk-in health clinic on campus and even a safety shuttle to bring students back home from Wisconsin and M Streets on weekends.

Much of our work has been in collaboration with, or in support of, existing groups. It is very exciting that GUSA and the Corp are working on a new brochure describing the rights of students with regards to the Department of Public Safety, Metropolitan Police Department and off-campus housing, that next year’s New Student Orientation leadership is looking to extend the program beyond the first week of school, and that members of the library staff and the Corp are considering a coffee bar in Lauinger. Each step will make a difference.

In the coming weeks, we’ll be circulating surveys among students and faculty to find out how we can enhance our campus community. We hope students will take the time to add their thoughts.

No single group has a monopoly on these ideas and values. Everybody can help make Georgetown a safe, inclusive, fun and academically enriching environment. The great message of GUSA’s “Health, Safety and Justice Week” is that we all have a responsibility to do just that.

— The friends group is an ad hoc group of students, faculty and administrators. Richard Bennett is a junior in the MSB, Kevin Comeau is a senior in the SFS, Ryan DuBose is a senior in the College, Eduardo Ferrer is a senior in the MSB, Scott Minto is a senior in the SFS, Shannon Ross is a senior in the College, Brian Walsh is a senior in the College, Bette Keltner is dean of the School of Nursing and Health Studies and Daniel Porterfield, a 1983 graduate of the College, is vice president for communications and public affairs.

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