Boozin’

Officials say alcohol plays a role on SDSU’s campus, but it is a ‘universal problem’

Joshua Maples and his team challenged students to drive Mario Kart while wearing “drunk goggles,” which opened students’ eyes to how quickly alcohol can affect their bodies. 

Maples is the residence hall director in Young Hall at South Dakota State University. Maples, along with members from the Residential Life and Housing, put together a program called Live Life in Full Bloom at the end of March. It stressed how students should make positive choices, especially with alcohol. 

“And when you’re sober and you are experiencing that, it is an eye opener,” Maples said about students who participated in the Mario Kart event. “When you’re not sober, that is when you make those poor decisions.”

About four out of five college students drink alcohol, according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. And in regards to SDSU, many people believe alcohol is a problem. 

“From my perception, students believe that alcohol is more prevalent on campus than what it is,” said Michelle Johnson, the Title IX/EEO coordinator on campus. “It is prevalent. I’m not saying that there isn’t plenty of it. But I think they assume everybody’s drinking and everybody’s doing it.”

Johnson said that there’s enough to create a problem, but not to the level that people think it is. 

Young adults, traditionally freshmen and sophomores, are in an “experimental stage” of their life, Johnson said. They no longer have parental guidance and they have more freedom to figure out what is for them and what isn’t.

Don Challis, the assistant vice president for safety and security at SDSU, said alcohol is an issue that is not unique to SDSU but is an issue for campuses nationwide. 

“Alcohol is a universal problem on college campuses and campuses are doing different things to address those,” Challis said. 

They are seeing a lot of behaviors that result from drinking off campus, Challis said. However, he says there are events that alcohol is a factor. One example is tailgating. 

Many students don’t have the intention of going to the football game, but then they walk back to their residence halls or other areas intoxicated, which creates a problem, Challis said. 

“We seem to place an undue amount of importance on alcohol at some of these student functions,” he said. “We want people to be responsible. The law is 21, but we know this is a time of experimentation.”

Shyler Funck, a junior apparel merchandising major at SDSU, recalls when she was a freshman living on campus. She agrees that when students first come to college, they have more of a tendency to drink. 

“There is a difference between social drinking and drinking to get plastered,” Funck said. “Especially when large groups get together, it is more likely for drinking to get worse.”

Funck suggested making SDSU a wet campus. If alcohol is readily available, it could be an option to deter drinking, she said. She doesn’t believe alcohol is a problem specifically to SDSU but on campuses across the country. 

According to Doug Wermedal, the interim vice president of student affairs, when students drink in college it is not usually their first time engaging with alcohol. 

They see the real-world impact of high-risk behaviors and making smart choices, Wermedal said. 

“A lot of those really destructive behaviors spring from moments or patterns of substance abuse and so the University, the state and the nation have made heavy investments in educating students on that,” he said. 

One program on campus that educates students on substance abuse is Conflict and Prevention, also called CAP. Virginia James, the coordinator for CAP, said it is a committee of professionals that look at different alcohol education initiatives and programming options on campus. 

James also agreed with Johnson and Challis that students are feeling independent when they first come to college. 

In the last year and a half, CAP has been working on social norms campaigns. This helps students understand where their peers stand in regards to drinking patterns, James said. They engage in conversations with students and help them with their own awareness. 

“Just them [students] asking the question or getting curious and saying that’s the truth behind it,” James said. “That’s indicative to me. In their curiosity and their desire to know more information, that’s a perk.”

HEROH, or Helping Everyone Reach Optimal Health, has a committee that directly focuses on alcohol, tobacco and other drugs. Dana Kurtz is a co-chair for this committee. 

Kurtz said their main focus is talking about safe drinking, instead of telling students not to drink because it is not an effective strategy, especially on a college campuses. 

“We just want to promote the fact you want to be safe when you drink, don’t walk home alone, don’t drive…look out for everyone around you, even if you don’t know them,” Kurtz said. “Just because you don’t know them, doesn’t mean you can’t reach out your hand.”

Challis wants students to question the importance of alcohol in their lives. They need to look at the impact it could have, especially if they have lost friends or family to alcohol-related incidents. 

“We just need to be aware and more responsible of taking care of each other,” Challis said. 

Since Maples is a residence hall director he has seen how alcohol can have effects on students, specifically those who still live on campus. However, he believes that the number of people who do drink is smaller than most people think. 

He said this behavior is irresponsible, but unfortunately these actions have put a reputation on SDSU. 

“SDSU is better than what people brand us,” Maples said. “We need to remember to show them that we are jackrabbits who make positive choices.”