GW released statistics that show a noticeable increase in alcohol-related hospitalizations and UPD citations, but a decline in Student Judicial Services alcohol violations. While some may interpret these figures as proof that recent changes in the residence hall system have led to widespread alcohol-use, the exact causal relationship must be first determined before any conclusions are reached.
Last year, GW announced that it would replace Community Facilitators with House Proctors, who are unable to enforce University alcohol policy. Students this year also benefit from an SJS medical amnesty program that allows underage drinkers who become ill from alcohol use to receive care without disciplinary ramifications.
Both of these policy decisions, taken alone, are positive for students. They foster community in residence halls and improve student health. In the broader context of these latest alcohol-use statistics, however, these changes might appear to have negative effects.
To prevent such perceptions, the University should pinpoint the cause of the spike in hospitalizations and citations. It may be the case that the higher numbers are due to more students reporting alcohol incidents as a result of the amnesty program. If this is the case, GW should make it clear that the statistics in fact represent a positive change in student health.
If the numbers represent a problem in enforcement and monitoring, then administrators should investigate changes to the current system to curtail excessive alcohol use. One explanation might include the class of 2010’s lack of institutional memory of CFs roaming residence halls and enforcing University alcohol policies. In any case, the true cause of the statistical change should be understood before making policy decisions.
Personal responsibility on the part of all students is necessary as well to ensure that increased alcohol-use on campus does not morph into a student-health pandemic.
It seems as if last year’s major changes to hall life and the institution of medical amnesty have had an effect on the reported alcohol use at GW. While the numbers may seem to point to several apparent conclusions, they require further analysis to understand the real changes in student alcohol use.