The unexpected cancellation of Trick or Drink has sparked discussion about alternative means of changing the drinking culture on Bates campus. Assistant Dean of Students and Alcohol, Tobacco and Other Drug counselor Erin Foster-Zsiga and Assistant Dean of Students Carl Steidel shared some of the more proactive, educational policies in place that can help shape the campus culture.
First-Year Orientation is when most of the alcohol education takes place because this is a pivotal point of development in the student’s life. It is also a matter of convenience, because it allows the Deans to target and educate a large portion of the student body at once.
An online alcohol education course, which gives incoming first-years a baseline understanding about alcohol, is taken before school starts and again in October. The program provides data for the administration to help them tailor certain orientation programs. The JAs and RCs play a big role in these programs. If for example, the numbers show a spike in alcohol related incidents during the first-year’s third week on campus, they can have JAs/RCs reach out to students at this time.
Other programs focus not only on the consequences of poor decisions, but also how to learn to be responsible for your actions from a harm-reduction standpoint. Essentially, they want to teach students, “If you make the decision to drink how can you do it as safely as possible,” Dean Steidel said.
After orientation, the education continues, yet many times students learn only through the reactionary policies, like the strike system. In and of itself, the strike system is designed around and educational, developmental-based model in which the students can examine their actions and decisions and figure out how to move forward in a positive way—and the Deans office can figure out how they can support that student along that path.
Treating Bates students like adults has always been the philosophy held by the administration.
“From the philosophical standpoint, I think it is always important to treat college students like adults and to give them some sort of agency in the decisions they are making,” Steidel said.
Practically speaking, the administration and security cannot be omnipresent. These proactive policies reinforce students’ agency, in that it gives them the resources and support system necessary to make good decisions.
“This is your community, you own a huge piece of it, if not most of it, and it’s your responsibility to take some ownership, not only for your own actions but to also help take care of your friends and your neighbors,” Dean Steidel said.
“I think that proactive policies are most effective,” junior Emma Pagano said. “I believe that if we are equipped with the skills and knowledge beforehand, we are more likely to take an active stance against alcohol abuse, sexual misconduct, and other misbehavior. I think it would be great if the administration moved us from a place of passion rather than fear.”
Another proactive policy is in the works to help students take an active stance. Last January, Dean Foster-Zsiga and a group of students, faculty and administration rolled out a new program called C.A.T.S. (Confront a Tough Situation). C.A.T.S. is a bystander intervention program designed to teach students from all class years different modes of intervention.
In the simplest terms, the C.A.T.S. Program teaches students, “If you see something say something,” Dean Foster-Zsiga said. “The program teaches there are all different ways to intervene.”
Bystander intervention does not always have to be confrontational. Modes of intervention include distraction and redirection as well. As Dean Steidel noted, a senior’s intervention may be more direct than a first-year’s, but the bystander intervention program gives all class years the skills and resources necessary to help out their friends and keep the community safe. Dean Steidel noted the program is a very “Bates way of handling the situation.”
“Also an important tenant [of the philosophy] is accountability,” said Dean Foster-Zsiga. “We want to hold [students] accountable to the community.” This intervention program, among other initiatives, gives students the skills necessary to make smart decisions, ones that don’t harm us, our peers, or our community. Treating students like adults encourages them to take ownership for their actions and the actions of those around them.
When the reactionary policies must be applied, students have the opportunity to hold their peers accountable when there are community-based infractions. An extension of the Student Conduct Committee is the Student Judicial Board, which allows students to help their peers address a situation in which the Code of Conduct was violated and work together towards a solution. Dean Steidel hopes to utilize this student board as much as possible.
“Restorative justice” was also emphasized by both Dean Foster-Zsiga and Dean Steidel as an important component of the reactionary policies in place.
“When someone has caused some harm, either to individuals or the community, [restorative justice is] working with all parties involved to figure out what that individual can do to help repair that harm,” Dean Steidel said. Restorative justice, like the Judicial Board, directly involves students in the reactionary processes.
As the academic year progresses, Dean Steidel mentions that Dean Josh McIntosh’s working group will take a comprehensive look at the policies in place—both proactive and reactionary—to figure out how to best support the student body in their decision making. In the meantime, Bates students can utilize the resources already available to influence the campus culture in a positive way.