With Ivies Week looming, conversations about the dangers of alcohol may be more salient than usual. During the Alcohol Team's (A-Team) second annual Alcohol Summit on Thursday evening, approximately 80 students and faculty gathered to discuss how students view the use of alcohol on campus.
"The summit is really a safe space for people to voice their opinions, their experiences, their thoughts or ideas about drinking," said Emily Neilson '11, who is a member of the A-Team. "It's really just a conversation that we want to get a feel for what the pulse is on campus."
"We hope to have people reconsider the idea of a 'drinking culture' at Bowdoin," added Leah Pepe '11, another member of the A-Team who helped to plan the event. "There are a very, very wide range of experiences people have with alcohol here."
The A-Team organized last year's summit to address the high number of transports. According to Neilson, though transports are a "topic of interest" at this year's summit, the event will focus "more generally on what people are thinking about alcohol on campus."
"The purpose is just to create conversation," said A-Team Co-Chair Simon Ward '13. "This is a chance to really be in a slightly more formal setting and have your opinion heard by the A-Team...[and] the deans."
In his opening speech, Dean of Student Affairs Tim Foster encouraged students and faculty to participate in an honest conversation about alcohol.
"I have been looking forward to this discussion for a long time because I see this as an opportunity to put 75 people together to talk about arguably one of the most difficult and complex issues on campus—how to reduce dangerous and irresponsible drinking," he said.
During the summit, students broke off into small groups to discuss targeted topics related to alcohol consumption. The A-Team then collected the ideas generated by each group for future use.
"The Alcohol Team compiled a list of questions that we think address either specific issues on campus," said Pepe, such as "taboo topics surrounding alcohol or ideas that we wish were more prevalent."
"Our questions are designed...to be discussion starters," she added. "None of our questions are designed to make people think what's right or wrong [about alcohol]."
Discussion questions included "What comes to mind when you think of drinking at Bowdoin?" and "What do you think of the drinking scene at Bowdoin?" At the summit, a panel of students also discussed their experiences with alcohol on campus.
"One of the easiest ways...to get through to people is by personalizing stories," said Pepe. "[The panelists] are able to humanize the situation and really put campus alcohol use in a context in which people can really identify with it."
"I think each one of [the panelists'] stories is really powerful about how they have made choices, and what their influences were and how those influences have changed," said Associate Director of Student Affairs Meadow Davis, who is also co-chair of the A-Team.
Neilson emphasized that the purpose of the summit was not to dissuade students from drinking, but rather to encourage students to drink in healthier, more responsible ways.
"It's not that we want to prohibit drinking at all," she said. "How do we better generate a community that makes safer decisions with drinking, and is just healthier and happier in general?"
Davis explained that she was most interested in getting feedback from students about what sorts of non-alcoholic events they would like to see on campus.
"[The A-Team is] trying to create opportunities for people to see how much fun you can have when drinking is not the main focus," she said.
For example, the A-Team is planning to hold a "Friday Night Lights" flag football tournament on April 22. It has also co-partnered with Bowdoin Student Government and the athletic department to keep the Peter Buck Fitness Center open until midnight on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays.
Davis said she hopes students feel "empowered, if they don't like the [drinking] culture, to help shift it."
"Our vision is just to create a more positive experience for Bowdoin students all around," said Neilson.