April 13, 2001

S.A. Discusses Ways to Control Slope Day

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Yesterday’s Student Assembly (S.A.) meeting began with an address from Susan H. Murphy ’73, vice president of student and academic services. Murphy asked the Assembly for ideas on ways to minimize over-consumption of alcohol during the upcoming Slope Day celebration, traditionally held on the last day of classes.

The University does not sponsor the event, “but we know it goes on,” Murphy acknowledged.

Cornell introduced an alcohol-free alternative called Slope Fest two years ago. The event takes place on West Campus and offers games, live music and other activities.

“The challenge we see … is that the extent of alcohol poisoning that remains on the slope has not been diminished,” Murphy said.

She explained that hard alcohol causes the most problems requiring medical attention, including some life-threatening cases.

“We all know that if we have a tragedy on the slope … Slope Day will go away, no questions asked,” Murphy said, adding, “We cannot continue with this level of alcohol risk.”

She said the University administrative staff have been discussing ways to make the celebration as safe as possible, and she gathered S.A. members’ input yesterday in an effort to collaborate with student leaders.

“How do we get students to cease consuming irresponsible levels of alcohol?” she asked, seeking recommendations of steps the University could take to reduce excessive drinking.

Michael Wacht ’02, College of Architecture, Art and Planning representative, said he thinks the problem is that “there’s nothing to do on the slope,” except drink and talk.

Several students suggested that more information on the effects of drinking might assist people in limiting their alcohol consumption. Leslie Barkemeyer ’03, Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Questioning (LGBTQ) student liaison, recommended providing height and weight charts that show how much a person can drink before feeling the effects of alcohol.

“The students don’t necessarily know, in general, what they can handle,” Murphy agreed.

“I think a lot of students are unaware of the alcohol content of hard alcohol [versus] beer,” said Lindsay Patross ’02, undesignated representative at-large. Patross is a new S.A. member, serving in the position from which James Lamb ’03 resigned on March 15.

In response to a question from Murphy, S.A. President Uzo Asonye ’02 surveyed the S.A. to see how many representatives would be in support of a “cans only” rule on the slope. Two said they would be for it, and 11 were against the idea.

Derrick Zandpour ’02, international student liaison, was one of the dissenters.

“If you work for a brewery, this might be a good proposal,” he said. “But you’re not solving anything — you’re just changing the type of alcohol,” he added.

“I think that if you’re serious about ending a lot of the issues, you’d have to do it with force,” he said.

Amy Gershkoff ’02, minority student liaison, said alcohol was not the sole issue.

“This is not about what you’re drinking. It’s about personal responsibility, to know what your limits are,” she said.

Michael Brown ’02, undesignated representative at-large, said he thinks the problem extends beyond alcohol use, into the social culture of Cornell.

“[Ithaca] is an isolated area, and a lot of the activities do center around drinking,” he said. He called Slope Day “another link in a chain” of drinking that exists throughout the year.

Murphy replied, “I would say there is [an aspect] of Slope Day particular to Slope Day,” that sets it apart from the drinking that goes on year-round.

Rules for partying on the slope this year will build upon last year’s guidelines, Murphy said. The University will devote more energy this year to prevent local underage youth from joining in the festivities. For example, students must carry their Cornell identification cards.

As in the past, large quantities of alcohol, such as garbage-can-sized containers, are not allowed, and furniture is also banned. Murphy said the University will take steps to enforce these policies. It will also print a series of publications on safety, and provide low-cost food and beverages on the slope, including plenty of free bottled water. Last year, the supply of 5,000 bottles ran out.

Behavior on the slope this year will be the basis for discussions in September on preparing for next year’s Slope Day.

Bronstein recommended a solution that Massachusetts Institute of Technology uses to spread information about drinking during their own Slope Day-style event. MIT hands out cards with emergency phone numbers on one side, and alcohol education on the other. Bronstein said that Cornell might want to hand out tickets to get onto the slope, printed with alcohol information on the back, such as how much a person of a certain weight can drink.

After the discussion, the S.A. passed a resolution to approve the revisions to the Student Activity Fee setting process. The vote provided closure after several weeks of debate over amendments to the current rules.

Frankie Lind ’01, College of Human Ecology representative, then motioned to change the agenda, moving his “Resolution in Support of Reducing Cornell University Campus Emissions” to the next issue of debate. The S.A. voted to discuss the resolution, and Lind addressed the Assembly.

“How many people have seen what’s going on at Day Hall all day today and last night? It’s called Kyoto village,” he said, referring to the Cornell Greens’ Kyoto Now! movement pressuring the University to comply with environmental emissions standards established at a 1997 international conference.

Zandpour condemned the S.A.’s approval of placing the resolution at the top of the agenda.

“This is no more urgent today than it was last week,” Zandpour said. He discussed possible repercussions of the resolution.

“It all sounds nice here on paper, but there’s going to be other effects here,” Zandpour said. “Economic factors are only one effect that I can think of,” he added, urging the Assembly to not rush through the resolution without fully understanding it.

“Economics does not have dreams, does not suffer … does not procreate; human beings do all those things,” Brown said, commending Lind “for making us [the S.A.] a part of his movement.”

Moriah confirmed that the resolution would only state that the S.A. urges the University to comply with the Kyoto emissions standards, which would reduce campus greenhouse emissions seven percent below 1990 levels, by the year 2004.

“This is not going to invoke cold showers,” Lind said of the resolution. “It’s about how much the University is going to prioritize this.”

“There will not be a hindrance of Cornell activity” if the University lowers its emissions, he said. Lind explained that installing double-paned windows in the Straight, for example, could reduce energy waste without altering the architecture of the building.

Gershkoff disagreed. “This resolution doesn’t do anything,” she said, criticizing the proposal for lacking “teeth,” or specific recommendations. She recommended forming a committee to come back to the S.A. with tangible suggestions.

“I think helping the environment is a good idea, but we have to be smart about it,” she said, noting the lack of facts and numbers presented to the Assembly. Despite the environmental benefits, she said, “We don’t know how much this will cost.”

The S.A. opened the floor to hear community concerns.

“This is
something students want the University to look into and [students] think you should,” said one freshman student.

“We’re saying that global change deserves a priority in our lives,” said Lindsey Saunders ’03 of the Cornell Greens.

Pat Schloss grad expressed his disappointment that the S.A. changed the agenda to discuss the Kyoto resolution but voted not to discuss a resolution to remove abortion coverage from the student health plan. He added that the University cannot really determine the guidelines for reducing emissions, because Cornell is constructing two new buildings next year that will have uncalculated emissions.

The Assembly voted on the resolution recommending the University reduce campus greenhouse emissions, and passed it by a vote of 15 to two.

“The University needs to step up to the plate and be a big red role model,” Lind said after the vote.

Archived article by Heather Schroeder