In light of the student deaths of Ithaca College freshman Victoria Cheng and Cornell University freshman George Desdunes, representatives from the college, Cornell and Tompkins Cortland Community College met last week to discuss their strategies for alcohol and drug prevention and intervention.
The Campus Community Coalition compared strategies and ideas on the effects of college-age drinking before the public last Thursday. They stressed a comprehensive approach to the issue, noting there is no single solution for dealing with underage drinking, and the problem and deaths affect the entire community.
Gary Stewart, director of community relations at Cornell, acted as host of the event and said he hopes the public was able to take practical information away from the meeting.
“We want people to hear about programs that are available and maybe pick up some information along the way that might help a parent with their own student or — at the very least — let people know what the professionals at the campus are working on,” Stewart said.
Nancy Reynolds, director of health promotion at the counseling center, represented the college at the forum and said it was planned in light of the student deaths at the college and Cornell.
“This semester has been a rough one for our campus and Cornell’s with the student deaths,” Reynolds said. “We have been working on this issue for a long, long time. So for us to have extra attention paid to this issue is a positive thing.”
At the forum, Reynolds discussed the college’s strategies in preventing and intervening in alcohol and drug use, including reaching out to students by promoting responsibility and safety at the campus level through intercom messages, brochures, flyers and the Alcohol Wise online program.
At the individual level, Reynolds said the college reaches out through counseling students who are experiencing problems with substance use, a medical amnesty policy and by working with judicial affairs.
Lesli Myers, assistant superintendent for student services in the Ithaca City School District, said the problem of underage drinking starts early, and 40 percent of the superintendent hearings over the past three years were because of alcohol and/or drug infractions. Myers said the school analyzes data from reported infractions and keep their educators informed of and accountable for the results.
Myers said poor attitudes toward substances could start in the home.
“One of the things we found is that when students have a drug or alcohol infraction, in some instances the parents are unfortunately condoning the behavior,” Myers said.
Anthony Hopson, assistant vice president for community relations at the college, said though the deaths of students are tragic, they have brought the community together to evaluate how to deal with underage drinking.
“The opportunity for the colleges is to answer what are the preventive measures that are being enforced on campus in terms of how we educate students on the effects of underage drinking, and the impact it has on the community and ways to avoid tragic circumstances.”