Misconceptions Surround ‘Dry Orientation’ Rumors
Issue   |   Wed, 05/01/2013 - 00:16

Despite recent rumors, the administration will not impose a campus-wide prohibition on alcohol during next school year’s Student Orientation. The Orientation Committee, which consists of students, faculty and administration, determined that student Orientation leaders (Squad leaders, CEOT leaders, and FOOT leaders) will have to sign a clause in their contracts that stipulates that they must refrain from the use of alcohol and drugs during the orientation period, according to Interim Dean of Student Conduct Susie Mitton Shannon. It has not been determined that other students on campus during Orientation will have to sign a similar agreement.

“We want to move to a safer Orientation,” Mitton Shannon said. “Orientation last year and the year before was not the safest environment, and we are implementing changes and discussing to see what that will look like.”

The rumors of a campus-wide alcohol ban started last Wednesday night, when the Association of Amherst Students (AAS) posted on their Facebook page that “[m]embers of the Amherst administration have approved plans for a ‘dry campus’ for Orientation Week 2013.” The post was explicit that “no one — including 21+ students — will be allowed to drink on campus.”

The status was partly based on an Orientation Committee meeting that Wednesday. "This was one of the last meetings of the year, and most of the time was spent 'going through some final logistical things,' committee member Christian Aviles ’14 said. “We went over the contract for Orientation leaders, and there is segment of it that says that student leaders should not drink alcohol.”

Other administrators were supportive of the idea for students not to drink on campus, according to AAS senator Shruthi Badri '16. However, no decision was made at the meeting barring athletes from drinking. “From my conversations with Dean Mitton Shannon there is nothing in place to affect fall athletes,” student body president George Tepe ’14 said.

Badri reported what she learned at the meeting to the AAS internal Facebook group. “I never thought it was going to be a dry campus — I told the senate leaders exactly what was said at the meeting, that Orientation leaders had to sign this contract saying they couldn’t drink,” Badri said. “I also said that I heard that other parts of the administration were starting to think that this was a good idea.”

After conversation on the internal Facebook group, the status went up later that night. “We thought it was an accurate portrayal of the information we had at the time,” Tepe said. “In the end we know that the post was wrong in that it portrayed a formal full ‘dry campus.’”

“The status doesn’t have the details but was true in spirit,” Badri said. “The college was definitely moving towards the dry orientation.”

The AAS post went viral across campus; to date it has been shared over 120 times. The next morning Mitton Shannon had received dozens of emails from students and alumni, upset over the new purported policy. “I had to reply back saying that the Facebook post is not accurate, that it was misinformation,” Mitton Shannon said.

Mitton Shannon met with Badri and Senator Matt DeButts ’14 the next morning to discuss the policy. She also met with Tepe and asked that him to take down the Facebook post. The AAS did not take the post down but instead put up a new post that clarified the policy. This second post also mentioned that the administration and the AAS went “through a process of collaboration” in reaching an understanding of the Orientation alcohol policy.

This collaboration manifested itself by discussion that was had about whether alcohol policy during Orientation should apply to all students who were engaging in underage drinking or providing alcohol to minors. Some administration members felt that if students were caught engaging in these activities they have the choice to either go home and return after Orientation of perform community service. “These ideas were taken off the table during discussions we had on Thursday,” Tepe said.

However, Mitton Shannon was not happy with the collaborative message of the second Facebook post. “We didn’t like that post because it implied that there was a policy, that students rallied up against the policy and the administration as a result changed the policy,” Mitton Shannon said. “The truth is that there never was this policy and misinformation was posted without it being appropriately checked.”

Mitton Shannon contacted Tepe and told him that she thought the second post sent the wrong message to the student body. “That post did not account for the misrepresentation that took place.”

“The second post was claimed as an AAS victory in that they were able to backtrack the policy, but the policy was never in place,” Aviles said. “They broke a glass and then glued it together.”

In response the AAS posted a third status, apologizing for the miscommunication that took place. “This post was correct,” Mitton Shannon said.

On Saturday there was an Orientation meeting for squad leaders where students had to sign their contract. The meeting lasted two and a half hours, with much discussion of the new alcohol policy. There was a similar meeting the previous Tuesday before the AAS Facebook posts that detailed the same policy. This meeting lasted only 45 minutes.

The effects of the policy may not be as noticeable as some students think, according to Aviles.

“Nothing has changed about this alcohol policy from orientation to the rest of the year,” he said. “They can’t enforce what they can’t see. If you are having a glass of wine in your room casually with your friends nothing will happen to you. If you are throwing a rager handing out keystone lights to Freshmen it is another story.”

“If you prioritize drinking to the point where you might get ACEMed then this isn’t the job for you.”

Some students expressed concerns in the Saturday meeting that they wouldn’t be able to teach incoming students how to drink safely if they couldn’t be out drinking.

“You can have conversation about responsible drinking, and you can do that without having a beer in your hand,” Mitton Shannon said. “We really just want the Orientation leaders to be responsible around the freshmen on campus.”

“Refrain from alcohol use so that a freshman can go to the socials knowing that their Orientation leader will be there not under the influence of alcohol.”

Lady Jeff '15 (not verified) says:
Wed, 05/01/2013 - 06:29

So basically Shruthi decided to start a rumor and the administration ripped her a new one.

Shruthi (not verified) says:
Wed, 05/01/2013 - 12:42

Lady Jeff, if that is the impression this piece has given you, I am sorry to hear that. I simply reported to the AAS what I head at the committee meeting, which is totally standard, and also, my job as a senator.

Pro Hibition (not verified) says:
Wed, 05/01/2013 - 06:29

Being an orientation leader is a JOB. In few other work realms in this world are you allowed to drink on the job. If you can't give that up then don't become an orientation leader.

Anonymous (not verified) says:
Wed, 05/01/2013 - 06:30

The funniest part about this is the 19 year old orientation leaders whining about how they won't be able to drink. Oh no! The administration is enforcing the federal drinking age...as it should? This is an outrage!

Anonymous (not verified) says:
Wed, 05/01/2013 - 09:35

Some of these quotes are completely out of context, and the problem many leaders had with this was more so that they have no faith in us being completely capable of making responsible decisions. It's obvious, at least to me, that being drunk during orientation if you're a leader is unacceptable. And I'm not at all questioning the college enforcing the legal drinking age, obviously that's something that isn't excusable. But limiting 21 year olds from having a beer in their room and telling them to go out to a bar instead doesn't make much sense. Especially since they expect us to come back from those bars sober and presentable on campus. That I don't care about, of course I'm going to be sober when I have to set an example for the freshman, this is a job after all. But apparently even at 21 I'm not capable of having a beer in my room without going crazy, and that was the main implication out of all of this, and why I was so upset. I can set an example for freshman without a beer in my hand, absolutely. But modeling "abstain from drinking" or "rage until you black out!" are not the only two options here. When the freshman from my squad ask a 21 year old "what did you do last night," it doesn't set a bad example to say "I had a glass of wine in my dorm with my partner and watched a movie," or "I had a beer and some pizza."