With Ivies this weekend and discussions of responsible drinking abound, alcohol remains a hot topic. Members of the Alcohol team (A-Team) gathered for a summit last Friday to discuss the ways Bowdoin students view, use and abuse alcohol.
The focus of the summit was to "connect students and administration and get student input on alcohol use at Bowdoin in order to figure out what needs to be changed," according to A-Team Co-Chair Jules Valenti '10.
The summit was attended by about half of the A-Team, which consists of 60 students and faculty members, as well as randomly selected group of students who were invited to participate.
The morning served as "a chance for students to share their opinions on various aspects of drinking at Bowdoin," according to Special Assistant to the Dean of Student Affairs and A-Team Co-Chair Meadow Davis.
Assistant Dean of First Year Students MaryBeth Mathews said she was most impressed with "the experiences that the students did share. In the morning, the biggest piece that I learned from students was that the people you meet during orientation make the biggest difference."
The summit began with a student panel, during which four Bowdoin students shared their personal experiences with alcohol.
"The panel was so powerful," said Mathews. "Every single person recognized the impact of students telling their real life experiences. That kind of learning can't happen unless you go through it, but it impacted many who probably don't have to go through it now."
In the afternoon, students were given opportunities to "brainstorm solutions to different challenges that were raised," according to Davis.
Max Staiger '13 said that the summit not only served as a platform to express ideas, but also provided a setting for students to begin to find solutions to drinking issues.
"There's definitely the right energies in this room that can at least make some sort of change on this campus," said Staiger. "Changing the relationships between social houses and their affiliates—I think that's a big key point."
Valenti emphasized that change would not be immediately visible, but the what was accomplished at the summit could lead to visible change in the future.
"The goal is long term. Events like this discussion allow students to discuss their ideas and remind them that creativity goes a long way," said Valenti. "Coming up with creative ideas and being passionate about what we're doing, like seeking out bands or speakers, empowers those kids that want to take the initiative and plan something cool."
Staiger agreed, noting in particular the gradual nature of changing the culture.
"One of the meetings isn't going to do much," he said. "The change will come by fostering a different culture and developing new ideas. You might see small changes next year, but the real changes you will be able to see four, five years down the line."
Though the summit brought to light some of the dangers of alcohol abuse, its purpose was not to dissuade students from drinking. The meeting aimed to make students think about and reflect upon their own experiences with alcohol.
"[The summit] got me thinking about my own relationship with alcohol and ways to give people more options where drinking isn't the center of the activity," said Jay Greene '13.
Mathews noted that the culture of drinking is not specific to Bowdoin, but to college-aged people in general.
"I think Bowdoin is a school of young men and women at the age where they are going to be experimenting, growing and maturing."
Valenti added, "I don't think the issue of alcohol is unique to Bowdoin—it's a large, national, cultural trend. The A-Team isn't trying to stop kids from drinking—it's [trying] to develop healthy drinking philosophies. In no way are we trying to put a limit, we're trying to get kids to think about the topic critically."
Though the issues pertaining to alcohol may be applicable to many students across the country, Staiger said there is still a need to relate issues directly to Bowdoin students.
"The hard alcohol is beginning to be a problem," Staiger said. "If you have so many freshmen transferred to the hospital, it's not out of control, but it's definitely something that should be talked about."
According to Greene, students can only benefit from conversations and discussions of alcohol.
"I think it's always a conversation that needs to be had," said Greene. "I do not think that any damage is done by talking about this."