Newcomers to Dalhousie weren’t the only ones testing the waters this month as the university implemented its first dry orientation week.
From Sept. 2 to Sept. 11, no alcohol was allowed in most Dalhousie residences, with the exception of LeMarchant Place and Glengary Apartments.
Vice-provost of student affairs, Verity Turpin, said alcohol harm reduction is one of Dalhousie’s top three priorities for student health and wellness, both on and off campus. Limiting access to alcohol during this important transition period aims to divert students’ attention away from drinking and towards other opportunities to get involved and connect with new friends.
The ban raised mixed feelings among students, however, with many reluctant to take the new rule seriously.
Throughout the week, several videos surfaced online of what appears to be extravagant alcohol consumption in Dalhousie residences. One video posted on Sept. 7 shows a student drinking from a four-story beer bong in Howe Hall. The video was featured on the well-known Instagram account @Totalfratmove, where it had earned more than 880,000 views at the time of this article’s publication.
First-year student and Howe Hall resident, Phoebe Knight, confirms having witnessed alcohol consumption in her residence and is “sure that it was also going on in other residences.”
Although she acknowledges the intent behind the university’s new alcohol policy, she does not consider it effective.
“It was a good idea, but I just don’t think it was pulled off,” said Knight. “I do know a ton of people who got caught by RA’s and by Dal security and got written up for it, but I just think a lot of people didn’t really care.”
Dalhousie’s Dry O-week is in alignment with a framework developed by the Post-Secondary Education Partnership on Alcohol Harms (a partnership between universities across Canada and the Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse and Addictions.) The framework proposes a socio-ecological approach to addressing violations of student conduct that accounts not only for the individual, but for the community at large.
Turpin hopes that focussing the treatment of alcohol-related misconduct on education and developmental conversations will help students make better choices moving forward.
“What we want to do is create a safe space for students to share and learn and perhaps make different choices moving forward versus having a conversation that’s just about, ‘You did something wrong. Here’s the consequence,’” said Turpin. “Reducing alcohol harms and really making a difference in terms of the culture on university campuses is not a sprint, it is a marathon. You can’t just take one single approach and expect to have a huge impact.”
Howe Hall residence assistant, Ashley Whyte, said she feels this method allowed for misconduct to be handled in a positive way throughout O-week.
“I think it was effective in keeping students safe,” said Whyte. “If we are dealing with some sort of misconduct – we go and we see why it happened and what we can do to keep it from happening again.”
She said overall, follow-up conversations with students were well-taken.
“The tactic that we have tested this fall in residence is just another one of the series of things that we do that align with the best practises of reducing alcohol harms on post-secondary campuses,” said Turpin. “We know as an institution that our students will consume alcohol both on and off campus. Our job through our approach to alcohol harm reduction is to educate and support our students.”
This fall’s pilot strategy will be assessed to see if it is something the university wishes to continue in the future.