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Booze: SA alcohol forum discusses safety

By Bob Chen and Hallie Jordan     1/20/11 6:00pm

After an influx of calls to Rice Emergency Medical Services for excess alcohol consumption, the Student Association held a panel to discuss what can be done to reduce the number of intoxicated students.The panel, held Wednesday evening, included seven panelists whom the SA felt represent and are informed about Rice's alcohol policy, Will Rice College Senator Renee Dudley said.

"We had more ambulance transport to the hospital last semester than we had in any other semester year in the EMS history," REMS Captain Hashim Zaidi said. "That's just last semester."

The number of calls to EMS is something that cannot be overlooked, Dean of Undergraduates John Hutchinson, a panelist, said.

"We are sitting at a moment of crisis," Hutchinson said. "The status quo cannot stand. We can't wait for this to go away. Crisis presents itself as an opportunity. We need to collectively stand up as a community to say this cannot go on."

Though the panel discussed what the policy actually says, Hutchinson emphasized that the most effective way to combat alcohol-related problems is for students to care about each other and their community and not about law enforcement.

"The driving force of the policy is about care, not about legal issues at a private gathering," Hutchinson said. "Rice liberalized its policy with the belief that students would pick up the slack by taking care of each other."

One way students can work on supporting and looking out for one another is by notifying college chief justices of private parties, Wiess College Chief Justice Jon Endean said. According to the policy, if a party has a keg, it must be registered as a private party.

"If you host a party, you are taking responsibility for all who consume alcohol," Hutchinson said. "Tell your chief justice for support."

Communication between students does keep the level of EMS calls significantly lower, Zaidi said.

"Public gatherings that are planned will see a distinct decrease in EMS calls," Zaidi said. "However, people from private parties are found in a state when they need hospitalization immediately."

Several students in the audience questioned if more EMS calls could signify more faith in the service and not a rise in overly drunk students.

"More EMS calls do show that our community cares, but we also know that some people have been found abandoned, suggesting that we have a ways to go," Hutchinson said. "For a culture of care, we must help people not to go too far and intervene. We need to feel empowered to help people, whether or not we are the host."

Crawls, along with private parties and the drink Four Loko, have contributed to high drinking levels, Hutchinson said.

"It is physically unrealistic to have not just a little bit of alcohol but a lot of alcohol of 11 [one per college] kinds in a very short course of an evening," Hutchinson said.

Lovett College Chief Justice Jay Patel said he thought more than just discussion needs to happen to bring change.

"A lot of the issues were said, but we have not established what to do next, and I think we really need to do that," Patel said.

The intent of the meeting was to promote communication and receive input from the student body, Dudley said.

Associate Dean of Undergraduates Donald Ostdiek made sure to emphasize this idea.

"The policy was written by and large by the students," Ostdiek said. "It is not something that is imposed on you but something the community has made. Everyone should have input.

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