In the March 5, 2001 issue of The Free Press, the Senate Update page listed an article that I must respond to. Resident Sen. Anthony Pergola has suggested the University provide a shuttle bus to ” … cut down on OUIs … ” My response here is to the topic and in no way is meant to reflect on the character of the senator. This type of thinking is the epitome of the situation created through the denial of alcohol problems. This is sometimes referred to as, “the elephant in the living room.” A very large problem exists, yet people perceive there is none. A shuttle bus will not cut down on the alcohol problem, even if it would minimize the driving infractions. The OUIs are not the problem of the University and any involvement by the University that portrays the implication of enabling students to drink irresponsibly without penalty is poor representation of the student population that is responsible in this area.
If the University promotes irresponsible alcohol consumption by practicing modes of enabling, rather than promoting responsible behavior, then the University is at risk of being the target of liability in all actions against the University involving tragedies caused therefrom.
On the same page as this article, listed under your Briefly column, are eight little quips of information regarding crime. Five of these definitely relate to substance abuse and the other three probably do as well. These are just little items that are being listed and the editor of this paper has said repeatedly that she is not being given all of the information she requests from the USM Police. The quips include a freshman leaving the scene of an accident, a student charged with furnishing liquor to a minor, dorm hallway urination, the furnishing of marijuana, and drug paraphernalia, etc.
At the present, the shuttle bus is not even servicing all the classes the University offers. To ask the University for additional bus service, when other bus priorities need to be realized, is a prime example of the selfish thinking alcoholism provides.
Alcoholism is socially accepted until the behavior of an individual is socially unacceptable and many times the end result is tragic. This University is constantly littered with alcoholic beverage containers and the cardboard remnants of which they are packaged, does no one see this? This is the elephant! The incidents of crime involving alcohol, again the elephant. And in no way would a shuttle bus have prevented the tragedy a year ago on the Gorham campus when freshman Nicholas Leon fell to his death from a dorm window. God forbid if this incident occurred after the University shuttled him to campus after enabling him to drink more because the University was only concerned with, “cutting down on OUIs.”
I have recently read some articles describing other colleges with similar problems. At the University of Michigan, the daughter of a Detroit News columnist, a 19-year-old freshman, fell to her death from a residence hall window in October 1998. Cornell University, student dead; Michigan State University, student dead; Illinois and Pennsylvannia alike, the problem is universal. It serves no purpose here to continue the list of tragedies as it should take no more than one to expose the elephant.
Alcohol presents a tremendous liability to places that enable its consumption for the sake of profit, yet more important is the effect alcohol imposes on the individual themself. Responsible drinking is not looking for another person or institution to relieve one’s responsibility for the outcome. It is up to the person to plan ahead for safe transport. Remember the slogan, “Friends Don’t Let Friends Drive Drunk.” Portland offers a Tipsy Taxi service that most establishments participate in. When with a group, a designated driver is a common approach. There are countless solutions for a safe evening of responsible drinking. For those who are irresponsible, they are another breed I will not address here.
It is my opinion that the University should stay away from any activity that resembles irresponsible behavior. We have access to this University because of our desire to improve ourselves and hopefully to present ourselves to society with something beneficial to offer. To the University, thank you, and to the students, PLEASE be careful.
Ronald Gervais, Jr.