At universities nationwide, the same weary mantra plays out semester after semester — college students binge-drink in dorms and anywhere that will serve hard liquor. UC Berkeley is no different, and we recognize that this is to be expected, but the spike in students rushed to the hospital for alcohol intoxication this fall is troubling.
UCPD statistics show that between the move-in and Labor Day weekends, twice as many students were sent to the hospital compared to the same period last year. While we recognize that this jump may indicate increased reporting and that the number of calls — 13 — is small relative to the student population, we are concerned about the level of support provided to students.
Students are often hesitant to seek aid for a friend because of the consequences that the friend may face. Students should have resources they can turn to for assistance and a support system that is open and accommodating. The priority should be to offer students proper care. Fear of disciplinary action should not deter calling for help.
Change must originate in the very place where new students come to make friends and weave themselves into the fabric of the campus’ social network — the dorms. UC policy is clear: a student whose drinking habits impair “work performance, scholarly, activities, or student life” may face “corrective action, up to and including dismissal.” Resident assistants prohibit underage drinking, causing students to hide stashes in mini-fridges behind closed doors.
That is where the trouble begins — in the foundation of the relationships between resident assistants and their charges. The role of the resident assistant should not be to admonish those who choose to drink. Establishing trust, openness and an understanding that the resident assistant is there to help is key in ensuring that hazardous drinking does not happen behind closed doors. It increases the chance that students will be taken care of if they do imbibe too much, even if that means whisking them to the hospital.
The campus should view UCPD’s statistics as a red flag and should assist the dorms in redefining resident assistants’ role. We encourage students to put health and safety first.