VP pitches alcohol monitor program

Student Life representatives present SPAM at weekly Student Senate meeting

VICE PRESIDENT FOR STUDENT LIFE TIMOTHY SAMS ADDRESSES the Student Senate about a new alcohol risk management program on campus that focuses on peer monitoring.

On Monday, representatives from the Office of Student Life presented a new alcohol monitoring program at the Student Senate’s weekly meeting. Vice President of Student Life Timothy Sams introduced this by the working title Student Peer Alcohol Monitor program, mentioning that it has been coined as “SPAM.”

Sams began by explaining the rationale behind the development of the program, describing the situation surrounding alcohol use last semester. “Way too many students went to the hospital because of alcohol,” he said. Later in the meeting, Associate Dean of Greek Life Matthew Hunt stated that there were, in fact, 34 reported instances of students being transported to the hospital. Sams added that on three occasions, these were high-level accidents which nearly led to the students’ deaths.

As a result, Student Life asked itself the question, “What can we do to mitigate that?” SPAM was one of the proposed solutions. The concept is to train upper-class students to be able to monitor registered social events which involve alcohol. These monitors would work in conjunction with party hosts to “keep party attendees safer.” Hunt mentioned that the presence of monitors may also aid students in determining whether parties are registered.

The meeting then transitioned to a question-and-answer session during which Hunt answered the majority of the questions posed by senators. When asked if the alcohol incidents were associated with RPI-affiliated parties, Hunt admitted that it was difficult to track such information. This is because, although students are asked to provide that information, they are not forced to do so, he explained. There also exists a jurisdiction issue between Public Safety and the Troy Police Department. Student Life was informed by Public Safety that five incidents were related to greek parties, but other incidents are not quite as certain.

In regard to the liability that student monitors may face, Hunt said that this was one of the issues Student Life’s core committee for SPAM is currently considering. The committee is “seeking legal counsel through the school.” It is also contacting other schools to learn how various institutions with similar programs have circumvented the legal issue. Hunt added that insurance that covers staff members may cover the monitors.

Hunt emphasized that SPAM will only involve on-campus events involving recognized organizations. All parties hosted by greeks will also be covered by the program. Student Life will, however, provide helpful information for off-campus students who are concerned about “abusive alcohol use.” Additionally, they will offer training similar to that which monitors will undergo for SPAM. If asked, Student Life may even aid students with planning their events. Associate Dean of Off-Campus Commons Cary Dresher is working on creating more options for off-campus students.

Several senators displayed concern about SPAM, explaining that they believe it may unduly harm greek-hosted social events. Hunt explained that SPAM is, essentially, just part of an overall program and that Student Life is “working on a larger, more comprehensive plan.” Sams added that SPAM is an overarching program, emphasizing his point by stating that “if 95 percent of parties are greek, that 95 percent should be just as safe as the other five percent, and vice versa.”

Monitors for the program may receive monetary compensation for their services. Hunt said this would make it easier to insure monitors and deal with the issue of liability. However, he stated that if a cost-free option presents itself, Student Life will take it to avoid burdening other students with paying for the income.

Both Sams and Hunt mentioned that the program has not been implemented and that there are many facets to work through. One fear is that the program may inadvertently push hosts of parties to stop registering their events. Another concern is that, for students who fail to appear on guest lists, going to unregistered events off-campus may be more appealing. Sams, though, stated that policies regarding these illicit events must be more strongly enforced.

With such issues to sort out, Hunt believes that SPAM will probably not be implemented until sometime during the fall semester of next year. The Student Life committee will continue its work throughout the summer and into the first month of classes. Greek rush, Hunt said, will provide them with additional time. He expressed his hope that SPAM could be implemented by October 1.

Student Senate meetings occur every Monday at 6 pm in the Shellnut Gallery, room 3606 in the Student Union, and are open to the public. The Senate will also be holding its semesterly State of the Union today at 7 pm in the McNeil Room. For more information, students can contact the Senate at JustAsk@rpi.edu.