With the annual Mifflin Street Block Party only two days away, city officials and campus leaders gathered to discuss the binge drinking culture that remains in the University of Wisconsin community even after the streets are cleared of beer cans.
A campus and city panel addressed audience members’ questions in the first day of an event titled “Our Student Drinking Culture,” a gathering targeted at engaging student and community voices on alcohol-related issues.
Dean of Students Lori Berquam kicked off the event by presenting students who completed CPR and safety training with red watches as part of the Red Watch Band movement, which intends to teach students to recognize and address dangerous overconsumption of alcohol.
The campus panel mainly focused on discussions of how to change the cultural norm of binge drinking at UW.
Associate Dean Ervin Cox cited the nature of some of the reports he sees on his desk — including one involving a student with a blood alcohol concentration of .44 who attempted to engage in sexual activity with the emergency medical technician who arrived on the scene and punched the house fellow who tried to stop her from taking off her clothes — as signs of the extreme problem on campus.
“That’s just the flavor of what we’re dealing with right now,” Cox said. He added the university needs to take steps to change the campus environment so UW is not a school where drinking is more important than football.
City panel members focused on the progress the community has made in changing the alcohol culture.
“Does drinking still occur? Absolutely … but we have made it safer,” Madison Police Department Capt. Carl Gloede said. He added new policies at football games, the police presence at events like Halloween and Mifflin and decreasing the dangers of house parties have all improved the campus climate.
Members also stressed the importance of student participation in discussing alcohol-related issues on campus and in the community.
Ald. Bryon Eagon, District 8, said student activism surrounding the appointment of a student member to the Alcohol License Review Committee showed their interest in the issue.
“Students do care, students do participate and students want a voice and a vote at the table,” Eagon said.
Attendees also stressed the importance of student participation in working with officials to impact alcohol policy.
“Students have this misconception of all these people’s views on alcohol,” UW senior Kirk Wolff said. “If more people show up I think they’d understand the police or the city aren’t trying to make laws to curb drinking or make things worse.”
Event organizer and ALRC member Mark Woulf said he was pleased so many people attended but had hoped for a higher student turnout.
“We have a disconnect with what students want to see and what the university is doing, so I’d like to see students be heard more as far as what we can do on campus,” Woulf said.
“Our Student Drinking Culture” will continue today with a speech by John McCardell, founder of Choose Responsibility, at 6 p.m.
Correction: The original copy of this article misspelled Mifflin Street Block Party. We regret the error.