Top Student Leaders Quietly Huddle to Form Alcohol Coalition


It was a few minutes after 9 p.m. on a recent Thursday night at Rose Hill. Some students were strapping on heels in the direction of an off-campus bar. Others were in the library, studying for some remaining midterm exams. But a select few quietly crammed around a small wooden conference table in the Office of Substance Abuse Prevention and Student Support, tucked in the basement of Alumni Court South.

Eleven of Fordham’s most prominent student leaders — presidents and vice presidents from Rose Hill’s United Student Government, Peer Educators, Residence Halls Association, Emergency Medical Service (FUEMS), Commuting Students Association and Campus Activities Board — were forming a coalition.

“Book Smart, Street Smart, Party Smart: A Coalition for Change” is aimed at reducing the amount of binge, “problem drinking” and displays of “risky behavior” in the nearby off-campus community, as well as boosting bystander support, according to material that was distributed during the group’s first meeting.

The exclusive meeting came nearly two weeks after Chris Rodgers, dean of students at Rose Hill, called for students to step up and address the strikingly large number of alcohol intoxication calls that were recorded in September.

“We need you, from the positions you’ve been elected to, to help us with this problem,” he said to the student leaders present at last month’s Student Life Council meeting. “It is a serious problem.”

Thirty-four students were transported to local hospitals in September for intoxication treatment, according to data from the Office of Substance Abuse Prevention and Student Support.

Another 17 students were evaluated by FUEMS for treatment, but were not transported to a hospital. Roughly 15 security alert emails were sent to students from Aug. 21 to the end of September. Of those, 11 were robberies and seven were specifically iPhone robberies.

“Fordham’s in a bit of a mess right now, especially Student Life,” David Schwartz, GSB ’14 and president of Peer Educators, said of last month’s statistics.

He sat at the head of the table and did most of the talking during the coalition’s meeting. Schwartz said given the numbers, he emphasized the need for clubs to gather together in collaboration.

“No one organization can really tackle the challenges that we face as club leaders this year alone,” Schwartz said. “So, I really wanted to bring everyone together and not just bounce ideas off of each other but also come up with something that’s really going to be substantial.”

The coalition’s written materials indicate that September’s statistics represent an “unsettling large number” of students transported to Bronx hospitals, an increase of “risky behavior” off campus (defined by students walking alone, walking with their phones out and being unfamiliar with the area) and “students not taking preventative measures to avoid intoxication.”

Rodgers says he is pleased to hear of the coalition’s formation.

“The plans I have seen are collaborative community-based responses, and I think they are going to help a lot of students over the next couple of weeks,” he said this week via email. “Our leaders seem to get it: we have to change the culture one student at a time and we have a duty to look out for one another.”

The group will remain solely student-run, but leaders recognize that they will work in close collaboration with a number of administrators and departments, including the Office of Student Leadership and Community Development and the Office of the Dean of Students.
The coalition’s mission is to educate students about statistics related to alcohol misuse off campus, the geography of the neighboring Belmont Community and safe partying tips through a collection of events, initiatives and marketing campaigns, the group’s materials indicate.

“We’re the leaders of six of the largest organizations on campus,” Schwartz said. “We’re well respected by the administration. And because we’re at a Jesuit university, I would say that we have the responsibility — but the reality is we have the opportunity — to really make a difference and increase what we consider the quality of life for our peers.”

In the same breath, he added: “We need to be active agents for change.”
The coalition will sponsor their first two events at the end of the month.

“Greeters at the Gates,” which will be held on Halloween night, will consist of student leaders providing snacks and water for students who are going off campus — presumably to drink or attend parties.

The second event, tentatively titled “Beer Goggle Mini-Golf,” is meant to show students how difficult it can be to perform simple tasks as a result of becoming intoxicated.

Students will attempt to play mini-golf while wearing goggles that are meant to disorient and simulate intoxication. The event will be taking place on Nov. 1 from 3 to 7 p.m. on the McGinley Lawn.

“Mini-golf is something that so many people enjoy and that requires simple hand-eye coordination and sharp motor skills to be successful at,” Schwartz said. “Our goal is to fuse the fun and innocence of mini-golf with one of the harsh realities of excessive drinking.”