Wheaton College Norton, Massachusetts
Wheaton College
Yellow Wood Commission

Campus Life

Letter from Dean Williams

Posted on January 14, 2011

Dear Wheaton Students,

This past weekend, two of your classmates were transported to the hospital due to extreme intoxication. One of these students had such a severe case of alcohol poisoning that without medical attention, it could have proved fatal. I'm writing to make clear a few things I believe you need to know.

First, in both of these situations, other students summoned help. They put their friends' safety ahead of their own concerns about getting in trouble with the college. They made the right decision. As your dean, I am assuring you that if you call for assistance to help a friend, that act will supersede any desire on the part of the college to sanction you for your own drinking. We may have a conversation with you about your actions later. We may even refer you for further discussion about your own alcohol use. But your willingness to put yourself in a difficult position will be the most significant factor in our response to you. Please, please: Do not let your fear of getting in trouble keep you from helping, or saving the life of, a friend.

Second, I want you to just keep this in mind: Both of these students, and several students transported last semester, drank excessive amounts of hard liquor. Doing shots may seem fun and a fast way to get drunk, but between the time you drink the alcohol and the time your body responds, there is enough time for your fellow partyers to leave you behind and go somewhere else. You may find yourself dangerously intoxicated and alone, and that may result in your death.

Third, please know the signs and symptoms of alcohol poisoning, and call 911 if you see anyone exhibiting these:  unconsciousness, repeated vomiting, irregular breathing, slow breathing, blue-tinged skin or pale skin, low body temperature, or seizures. If a person is unconscious, breathing less than 8 times a minute, and/or has repeated, uncontrolled vomiting, call 911 immediately. Keep in mind that even when a person is unconscious or has stopped drinking, the alcohol they've consumed continues to be released into the bloodstream and the level of alcohol in the body continues to rise. Never assume that a person will "sleep off" alcohol poisoning. They are more likely to vomit (the body's response to being poisoned), which may result in choking and death.

An estimated 1400 college students die from alcohol poisoning and related accidents each year. Their deaths were devastating to their families, friends and campuses. Please do your part to keep your friends and classmates safe.

Dean Williams

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