BASICally pointless

UMass isn’t doing enough to curb underage drinking

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BASICally pointless

(Arvind Grover/ Flickr)

(Arvind Grover/ Flickr)

(Arvind Grover/ Flickr)

(Arvind Grover/ Flickr)

By Cassandra 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]