GW administrators canceled a Welcome Week event at a downtown dance club Friday, citing concerns that the event sent the wrong message about alcohol use.
“The University was concerned about sponsoring an event that could be seen as promoting alcohol,” said Welcome Week Coordinator Heidi Wicker.
The cancellation came after two freshmen were found intoxicated in front of Thurston Hall Wednesday and taken to GW Hospital’s emergency room. Two other freshmen were hospitalized in alcohol-related incidents Aug. 17 and Aug. 22.
“There’s something developing on our campus that’s just not healthy,” said Student Activities Center Executive Director Mike Gargano, whose office planned the event at D.C.’s Zei Club with the Program Board and the Student Association.
Gargano said he decided late Thursday night to cancel the event at the Zei Club, where students would have been admitted free with a GWorld ID. Students also would have been asked for age ID at the door, and Gargano said the event was slated to be “18 to enter, 21 to drink.”
He said the Zei Club event was targeted at graduate students, but Welcome Week signs and advertisements on campus last week did not tout the event as strictly for older students.
Gargano said he was concerned about the juxtaposition of University-sponsored event at a dance club that serves alcohol immediately after several students had been treated for excessive alcohol use.
“It’s truly unprecedented that this many incidents happen in the first few days of school,” Gargano said.
GW President Stephen Joel Trachtenberg said he told administrators Thursday the University needs to prevent similar alcohol-related incidents in the future.
“President Trachtenberg basically said, `Hey guys, you need to take a good hard look at what you’re doing,’ ” Gargano said.
But Trachtenberg said he did not instruct Gargano to cancel the Zei Club event and that “Mike did it on his own initiative.”
SA President Carrie Potter, PB Executive Chair Brian Nathanson and Wicker discussed the cancellation of the event with Gargano during a conference call late Thursday night, Wicker said.
Wicker said she was initially disappointed by the decision because she felt Welcome Week planners had taken extra precautions to ensure student safety at the event.
Members of the Metropolitan Police Department, Welcome Week volunteers, SAC representatives and students trained in the University’s Responsible Alcohol Management (RAM) program were slated to be at the Zei Club for the event, Wicker said.
She said she suggested to Gargano that the University buy out the Zei Club for the night and pay the club not to serve alcohol. Gargano said he had not considered that alternative until Wicker, Potter and Nathanson suggested it, but decided to cancel the event altogether.
“My concern was that if we canceled the event we needed to provide alternate programming,” Wicker said.
Instead of the Zei Club event, Welcome Week planners offered students free tickets for 54 and Dead Man on Campus Friday night, and bought out Dupont Circle’s XandO coffeehouse for the evening. XandO normally serves alcohol, but Gargano said the University made an agreement with the caf? not to serve alcohol at the GW event. Welcome Week planners posted signs on campus Friday alerting students about the change in events.
The cancellation of the Zei Club party was not the University’s only response to the recent alcohol-related incidents. Freshmen were asked to attend a mandatory meeting at Thurston Hall Thursday to discuss binge drinking and excessive alcohol use.
Gargano said administrators are examining GW’s alcohol policies and looking for ways to further control excessive alcohol use by freshmen on campus.
“We need to do all that because this is no joke,” Trachtenberg said. “None of us in the University administration take this lightly.”