Wheaton College Norton, Massachusetts
Wheaton College
Yellow Wood Commission

Campus Life

Meeting of April 22, 2010


PRESENT: Raza Amin ’12, Co-Chair Gabe Amo ‘10, SGA President; Craig Andrade, Associate Dean of Health and Wellness; Tim Barker, Professor of Physics/Astronomy; Abigail Earle ’11, Charles Furgal, Director of Public Safety; Co-Chair; Andrea Holden, Assistant Director of Student Life; Jim Mancall, Associate Dean of Studies for 1st and Sophomore Years; Kenneth Monroe ’12, Rebecca Pye, Campus Coordinator; Alyssa Sands ’11, Alexandra Schibanoff ’12, John Sutyak, Associate Director of Athletics

OTHERS:  Janith Hancock, Adm. Associate, Dean of Students Office

Dean of Health and Wellness Craig Andrade welcomed members of the Yellow Wood Commission as well as other guests to the first Community Conversation. The Commission arranged this meeting to get together with the community to better understand what alcohol means to Wheaton. Members of the YWC introduced themselves and other guests introduced themselves also. It was explained that the Yellow Wood Commission is a student, faculty, and staff commission charged by Dean Lee Williams to look at larger issues facing Wheaton around alcohol, to understand how we live/learn/work together and encourage the responsible use of alcohol at Wheaton. The Commission has been meeting once a week since March, participated in an all-afternoon retreat, worked to bring about the "Safe Ride" Program to help reduce drunk driving and keep students safer, and reviewed our current alcohol policy to suggest changes and bring more transparency. The YWC now has a website that will provide the community with updates on the work and meetings of the YWC.

The conversation was planned to address the following questions:

.     What is the alcohol culture on Wheaton's campus?

.     How can harm be reduced?

.     How can the alcohol culture be changed?

What is the alcohol culture on Wheaton's campus?

The following is a listing of several comments expressed:

.     There is a presumption that there is a shift in how the alcohol policy is enforced as students move through their years at Wheaton. The policy hasn't changed, but students feel it has.

.     There is more tension for students around the policy in the past two years.

.     Students have been drinking more irresponsibly in recent years.

.     Students need to take a look at themselves and how they drink.

.     Athletes drink less because they have to be responsible to their coach and team, and they keep themselves busy with practices and games.

.     Freshmen feel there isn't anything to do at Wheaton/Norton so they drink.

.     Students drink to escape.

.     It is difficult to leave campus so students drink in their rooms.

.     It is known in publications students read (Facebook, etc.) that Wheaton is a place where you drink in your room.

.     Freshmen hear that the alcohol policy is lenient towards them, but staff is stricter with juniors and seniors.

.     Drinking in your room is safe; however, when a student brings attention to him/herself, it becomes a community issue.

.     When drinking overflows from student rooms into the hallways, it becomes a community issue.

.     Personal responsibility and accountability has changed.

.     There is a lack of respect and caring for shared spaces.

.     The hallways are disgusting with trash cans and trash kicked about and a high amount of vandalism.

.     Freshmen consume alcohol before a Balfour dance and then go to the dance because older students have indicated that is what is done.

.     If a student is drunk, they aren't responsible and they have an excuse for their behavior.

.     Drinking relieves tension for students and people are able to have fun.

.     Not all students drink, and they have great experiences at Wheaton.

.     Students need to have their priorities in place.

.     Students say they drink to be social; some students who don't drink are asked how they can have a good time without drinking.

.     Alcohol use advances as students advance from grade to grade.

.     Some students feel isolated as freshmen and drink quite a bit; they learn a lot from juniors and seniors.

.     Turning 21 isn't as exciting as students think it will be.

.     Upper class students are more mellow.

.     In the last few years, drinking and parties have been pushed off campus.

.     Public Safety is viewed more as police and less liberal.

.     Drinking on campus is more responsible than drinking off campus.

.     Students would rather drink on campus than off.

.     There isn't a social outlet on campus where students can drink. The Loft is not seen as a desirable place to hang out even though, at one time, it was a desirable space. Students need to show ID or passport to be served. Students are required to leave their backpacks at the door so that no alcohol is brought into the space.

.     Controlled spaces may be an alternative. Students can enter, but cannot leave if drinking occurs. Alcohol use would be more public and less secret. Students would not get so crazy and break things and also wouldn't be trying to outsmart Public Safety.

.     Not all students want to go to the Sportsway Café.

.     If students over 21 are drinking alcohol and are joined by students under 21, the interaction becomes awkward.

How can we reduce harm and increase student safety?

.     Continual reminding of outcome of alcohol use may be helpful; too much reminding could instill fear in students; message becomes "common"

.     The Loft isn't cool now.

.     Do not have an off-campus party when a Balfour dance is happening.

.     Bring in experts to talk with students.

.     Students will do what is needed to show students what can happen.

.     If a student calls Public Safety about a friend/s in trouble, the student feels they will get in trouble.

.     Public Safety randomly stops students and asks to look in their packs; students aren't clear why they have to answer to Public Safety.

.     Most students should be afraid of Public Safety.

.     No positive, only negative from Public Safety.

.     Major disconnect between students and those who are to be keeping students safe.

.     Students drink to be social at off-campus parties; there isn't as much of a supply of alcohol at an on-campus party as there is at an off-campus party.

.     If a friend is in trouble, other students may not know what they have been drinking when asked. Also, other students feel they aren't always believed when asked about their alcohol consumption.

.     Maybe RA training could be more effective. All RAs don't have the same experience.

.     Students need to hear they are to take responsibility for their actions.

.     What will happen to the person who is 21and may be drinking with those students under 21?

How do we take care of friends? Is it an Honor Code violation to not call when someone needs help? Is it a personal sacrifice to get help for a friend? Would students of age (21) be willing to talk with younger students? How can people not help those in difficulty because they don't want to get into trouble? If our reality is that people won't call for help, maybe amnesty is the way. No one wants parents to get that phone call.

What can we do to change the culture?

.     We don't need to make Wheaton a convent.

.     We need to make sure no one is harmed or dies and can succeed with their academics.

.     We need to be specific about the possibilities, be better allies and support better decisions.

.     Public Safety may consider being more about "public safety" and less like "police."

.     Not all students see Public Safety as police, however.

.     Is it possible to call Public Safety when a friend is in trouble and not identify oneself?

.     Students never think something serious or life-threatening is going to happen to them when they drink.

.     A climate of freedom and respect needs to be established.

.     Perhaps an entering class could take on this challenge and begin to change the culture.

.     Is a mentoring arrangement between classes something to be explored?

.     More diversity in the residence halls may be helpful to students.

.     If vandalism is reported in the Wire, students would know just how much their behavior costs the college and them.

.     Drawing students into the community to become more a part of the community and more respectful of other may be helpful.

The forum closed with the following thoughts:

.     email the members of the Yellow Wood Commission with any suggestions or opinions

.     talk with friends about this forum and let them know there will be other forums to come

.     suggest future topics for discussion

.     visit the YWC website for information and resources

.     learn to program events on campus without alcohol

.     consider developing a venue on campus that promotes socially responsible drinking

.     think about the possibility of a "rescue squad"

The meeting ended at 5pm.

Respectfully submitted,

Janith L. Hancock
Administrative Associate
Office of the Dean of Students

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