Alcohol-related emergencies spike on campus

Photo and graphic by Thalia Brown '19

Photo and graphic by Thalia Brown '19

BY JULIA DOYLE '20

When Lydia Solodiuk ’20 decided to attend Mount Holyoke last spring, she did not expect to see much drinking or partying on campus.  

“I didn’t perceive [the college] as having much of a party culture,” Solodiuk said. “But when I came here,” she continued, “[and] after hearing stories about parties and seeing ambulances at night, I realized there were parties here. It was surprising.” 

Despite Mount Holyoke’s lack of a party reputation, drinking does happen on campus: officials say incidents involving alcohol poisoning this year have been more severe than ever. 

Medical Emergency Response Team (MERT) Director Danielle Arshinoff ’17 said the fire department has been “flooded” with student alcohol-related intoxication calls in recent weeks. On Sept. 17 and 18 alone, the campus police log reported that officers responded to six calls to assess ill students and guests. Barbara Arrighi, Deputy Chief of Campus Police, confirmed that there have been 11 hospital transports already this academic year. 

 Situations like this have led to discussions among campus police and the college regarding student safety and drinking. Officer Earl Brown, a liaison officer who works with the Alcohol and Drug Awareness Program, said he believes it is not alcohol’s presence on campus that has increased, but rather inexperienced students overstepping their limits. Problems most often occur due to a lack of knowledge about responsible drinking among students, Brown said. One danger is a student’s lack of understanding in pouring drinks. 

“A lot of students use the red solo cups, and sometimes they fill them all the way up,” Brown said. “So when they say they’ve only had one drink, we need to know what type of drink it is, and if it’s a mixed drink.”

A mixed drink that fills “one cup” could have up to three or four shots worth of alcohol in it, Brown said. This could lead to a student consuming a lot more alcohol than they intend. 

Another concern on behalf of students is that many pre-game, or start drinking before going to a main party or event, whether at Mount Holyoke or other schools. Karen Jacobus, the College’s coordinator of health education, said that rapid alcohol consumption is one is one of the main causes of elevated blood alcohol content. In addition, students who take medication aren’t always aware of the different ways their medication can heighten the effects of alcohol, according to Jacobus.  

Officer Brown said the college’s Outreach Program and Alcohol and DrugAwareness Program intend to educate students by providing information about drinking safely, as well as tips for going out and information about alcohol in general. In regards to the challenge of reducing alcohol related incidents on campus, Brown said the program does not simply tell students not to drink, because they know that would not work. Instead, it hopes to provide information about the safe consumption of alcohol to decrease the amount of alcohol related emergencies on campus.

Another program that helps reduce these incidents is the school’s amnesty policy, which helps ensure that students receive necessary medical attention without fear of punishment, Brown said.  Jacobus and Arrighi also emphasized the school’s amnesty policy, explaining that the school’s desire is for students to be safe and to provide support to students who may need it. All officials emphasized that the discipline for students drinking is not intended to be punishment, but is instead geared towards helping students through the Alcohol and Drug Awareness Project, in hopes that students would be more willing to ask or call for help in case of trouble. 

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