Massachusetts Daily Collegian

SGA to launch new binge drinking awareness campaign

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(Conor Snell/Daily Collegian)

(Conor Snell/Daily Collegian)

The Student Government Association at the University of Massachusetts has announced a new binge drinking awareness campaign in the wake of former Boston Police Commissioner Ed Davis’ report, which cited high-risk drinking as major cause of large, crowd-related disturbances at UMass.

The Sept. 19 report provided recommendations on how the University and the town of Amherst can effectively deal with and prevent situations similar to last March’s “Blarney Blowout,” during which police, clad in riot gear, arrested 58 people.

Davis outlined seven critical areas where he believes the University, the town and the student body should make changes in order to safely deal with or prevent such incidents. One of those key areas is what Davis called “high-risk drinking.”

According to the report, high-risk drinking results in “(higher) rates of intoxication, vandalism, riots and harm to self and others.” Also known as “heavy episodic drinking” or “binge drinking,” it is defined in Davis’ report and by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism as “when men consume 5 or more drinks, and when women consume 4 or more drinks, in about 2 hours.”

It is this type of alcohol consumption that SGA Senator and Chairwoman of the Student and Academic Affairs Organizing Committee Jennifer Raichel hopes to curb with the new campaign.

“We’re not trying to stamp out drinking at UMass,” Raichel said. “We just want to encourage students to be aware and to stop themselves or others before they have too much.”

The program will collaborate with several other organizations and movements on campus which work to raise awareness about dangerous drinking habits.

The campaign also ties into Chancellor Kumble Subbaswamy’s “UMatter at UMass” initiative, which, according to its website, aims to “support increased campus connectedness” and “(reduce) the misuse of alcohol and other drugs.”

The Binge Drinking Awareness campaign will also work with the Office of Student Affairs, the Center for Counseling and Psychological Health and University Health Services.

Raichel said that she sees the SGA having two critical roles once the initiative is launched. First, Raichel said the SGA will “give students a seat at the table, an opportunity to make their voices heard,” allowing for greater transparency in the process. Additionally, the SGA will play a crucial part in shaping the message that is put out to the students, according to Raichel.

Following last year’s “Blarney Blowout,” the student body received an email from Subbaswamy detailing his feelings of “outrage” and condemning those involved for the damage and disturbances caused by the incident. Similar messages have been sent by the administration to students in the past, warning against congregating and binge drinking.

These messages, which Raichel said were “too long … and not relatable,” is one place where she feels the SGA’s input will be invaluable.

Raichel said she hopes that a more carefully crafted message, perhaps from other students themselves, will elicit a more receptive response from the student body.

In order to gain a better idea of the status of drinking on campus, the SGA will be hosting an open student forum on the issue during the first week of October.

“We really want to see how students feel about drinking and binge drinking here on campus,” Raichel said.

Ben Zifkin can be reached at [email protected]

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