Massachusetts Daily Collegian

BASICally pointless

UMass isn’t doing enough to curb underage drinking

%28Arvind+Grover%2F+Flickr%29
(Arvind Grover/ Flickr)

(Arvind Grover/ Flickr)

(Arvind Grover/ Flickr)

By Cassie McGrath, Collegian Columnist

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By allowing students to live on its campus, the University of Massachusetts has the burden of having to protect thousands of young and energetic adults. Ensuring that each student stays safe is the residential department’s number one priority. In order to do this, the school implements a series of security procedures that I am sure we are all familiar with, such as having students check into residential halls with their UCards, employing RAs and RDs and requiring students to sign guests into residential halls. In this way, the school does a great job of ensuring that the students are able to make their dorm feel like home.

But alcohol presents a different problem for UMass when it comes to keeping students safe. No one can deny that underage drinking is a common practice in universities throughout the country. Our school knows this and while it does its best to prevent it, with over 20,000 students, it is hard to control and completely enforce alcohol policies. The campus tries to work with students in every way possible to ensure that they do not drink but at the end of the day, indulgent alcohol use is a reality on this campus.

When a student is caught with alcohol, there is a certain process that UMass goes through in order to punish the student, explain the consequences of drinking and ensure that they do not drink again. The school sends the students to a class called Brief Alcohol Screening and Intervention for College Students. In BASICS, they are informed of the ramifications of their decisions. The only problem is this class doesn’t actually work.

I have spoken to many students who have attended this BASICS course and asked them if the class was effective for them—meaning, did it change the way they drink or make them want to stop drinking. Every single student that I talked to said that it didn’t. Some told me that it simply made them more cautious not to get caught again. Others even said that it made them start to binge drink so that they could get drunk faster and shorten the timeline where they are at risk of getting in trouble. Furthermore, the BASICS class costs $100 the first time you have to attend and $175 the second time. It seems like UMass is profiting off of being a school where students drink. Now, it is important to note that I am not arguing that the school should not punish students for drinking; it is ridiculous to ask UMass to let kids do whatever they want with no consequences. What I am arguing is that the school needs to do it in a more effective and less costly way.

According to the UMass Amherst Student life website, “Students who violate UMass Amherst’s alcohol and drug policies, those who are medically transported, held in protective custody or are court-sanctioned are required to attend BASICS.” The problem is that the school’s method of choosing who is sent to the class is completely flawed. I know kids who got transported that did not have to go to BASICS. I also know people who chose to stay in the “drunk cell” overnight to avoid being transported so they did not have to spend any money and attend the class. Is the University really okay with allowing students to put themselves in danger to avoid having to spend money?

Of course, all people should be aware that there are consequences to excessive drinking. It is extremely dangerous to binge drink regularly and if students are constantly putting themselves at risk, I understand that the school feels like they have to do something about it. However, the school should really take the time to ask students exactly what happened. Everyone knows that there are people at BASICS who made a one-time mistake and learned from it effectively, while there are others who constantly put themselves in danger with alcohol and have luckily just never gotten caught. This is extremely unfair. If UMass is okay with allowing students to spend their money and take two hours out of their busy schedules to attend this class, the school should at least talk to the students and make sure the class is worth attending. I expect more out of my school, but BASICS has just become an overpriced class where the school sends students so they do not have to talk to them and figure out if they are actually in need of counseling.

When you are young, you make mistakes. UMass should not allow its students to underage drink and put themselves at risk, but it really should be looking into each case and making sure that BASICS is the right punishment for the students at fault.

Cassie McGrath is a Collegian columnist and can be reached at [email protected]

2 Comments

2 Responses to “BASICally pointless”

  1. John aimo on March 3rd, 2018 8:07 pm

    It’s called freedom, if you want to drink, go ahead and do it. Now there might be -real- consequences, like getting a ticket for an open container or something like that. For the school to bully students to stop drinking is an abuse of power, it’s not the role of the university to be some sort of authority to police the behavior of students when it comes to partying and having fun. Students are paying the university, they have a responsibility to respect our freedom.

    Let’s be honest. First right now as I type this (saturday night, blarney blowout) there are loads of students getting smashed and many underage. The threat of a consequence to take some ‘class’ is absolutely powerless and second why does the university want to police it’s students when it comes to drinking and why does it go so far beyond other universities? It’s not because they truly care, it’s because they want to change the reputation of umass from a party school to a nice, reputable, high ranking university where everyone is a peaceful angel and does nothing wrong and doesn’t want to go here because its a party school.

    #zoomass #protectzoomass

  2. Ed Cutting, Ed.D. (etc.) on March 4th, 2018 12:56 pm

    The bigger issue is that it is a HIPPA violation for CDH to release medical records to Team Enku. It’s a HIPPA violation to release ANY medical records. This also, arguably, is a violation of the protective custody statute which explicitly is not intended to be punitive — because an earlier one that was punitive was ruled unConstitutional and thrown out.
    .
    Imagine if CDH were to release the names of all the students who’d had an abortion? Imagine if the hospital released the names not only to Enku Gelaye but to the student’s parents. And as this is punitive, to clergy and perhaps even the Collegian.
    .
    Yes, BASICS is punitive, the “tattletale” policy is punitive, and the question I have for Sally Linowski is if she’d be willing to do the same to students who’d had an abortion. Or the students with STDs, which are quite contagious — and which the US Army once dealt with in a similarly punitive manner.
    .
    I’d encourage any student sentenced to BASICS because of a medical transport to file a HIPPA violation complaint against CDH with both the US Dept of Health & Human Services and the Joint Commission on Accreditation. UMass only gets away with this crap because no one complains about it.
    .
    Above and beyond that, BASICS is asinine.
    .
    1: It encourages students to not seek medical care for themselves and/or others and that can be fatal. Jimi Hendricks comes to immediate mind.
    2: It encourages students to binge drink. “Pregaming” didn’t use to exist — in trying to ban alcohol, UMass has made it into the “forbidden fruit” — encouraging more students to drink and to drink more.
    3: As 18 is now the age of adulthood, it’s enforcing fiat discrimination on the level of race or sex. Bluntly, it’s the same as “no girls allowed” — and Massachusetts law once prohibited women from entering barrooms.
    4: It is giving the mutually-exclusive messages of “don’t drink” and “drink responsibly” — with both messages co-mingled and thus ignored. BASICS thus *increases* alcohol abuse at UMass!!!
    .
    We come back to the Hippocratic Oath and “I will respect the privacy of my patients, for their problems are not disclosed to me that the world may know.”

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