The Slope Day Steering Committee, one of the six committees comprising the President’s Council on Alcohol and Other Drugs, met last night to discuss recommendations to reduce the risks associated with alcohol and drug use on Slope Day, the celebrated last day of classes at Cornell.
Last night’s meeting was part of an initiative by President Hunter R. Rawlings III to address alcohol and drug use, announced yesterday.
“Because abuse of alcohol and other drugs is a community and family issue, as well as one of personal responsibility, we must work together to minimize it,” Rawlings said.
Rawlings’ initiative follows the trend of the University in the last few years to make changes to Slope Day. In 1994, Cornell banned live music on the slope. Then, the University introduced Slope Fest, an alcohol free alternative to Slope Day two years ago. In the last two years, Slope Fest has offered games, live music, refreshments, and other activities for students in order to create an attractive alternative to Slope Day.
“We recognize that Slope Day is popular and fosters a sense of school spirit,” said Susan H. Murphy ’73, vice president of student and academic services. “In order to preserve this celebration, significant changes must be made to minimize the risk of alcohol-related problems.”
The steering committee announced its intentions to have new Slope Day plans in place by next May’s festivities, but committee members would not discuss their exchange publicly.
“Members of the council took a vow of silence until next week when the recommendations are finalized,” said Kent Hubbell, dean of students.
Hubbell only commented that the committee will not be banning alcohol, and that all information would be shared with the Cornell community after next Wednesday’s meeting.
Nine students, three faculty members and eight staff members comprise the committee.
While preserving Slope Day’s festive atmosphere, the committee was charged with proposing strategies to ensure public health and safety; establish a free and responsible climate of civility; comply with state, local and University regulations; restrict attendance to the Cornell community and guests; and minimize interference with classes.
The committee will also look at gatherings with alcohol that take place before, during and after events on Libe Slope.
“Cornellians should expect some changes with Slope Day this year. The scope of these changes have yet to be determined,” said Mark Greenbaum ’02, S.A. vice president and member of the Committee.
The administration’s suggestions for Slope Day in the past have included a complete ban on all alcoholic beverages — including beer — or a more restrictive environment that included a catering service by the University. Many students have been outspoken in opposing such actions.
“I think that students want a Slope Day that is as unregulated as possible, and also one that is safe,” said S.A. President Uzo Asonye ’02, a member of the committee.
Though the meetings are closed to the student body at large, Scott Belsky ’02 assured that “there are students [in the meeting] advocating for other students.”
Timothy Marchell, director of substance abuse services for Gannett: University Health Services acknowledged that committee members represent a wide range of opinions.
“Right now we are kicking around all kinds of ideas,” Marchell said. “The extent to which that event in the future resembles [past Slope Days] will be a function of how these recommendations [address] the criteria laid out by the President.”
Marchell emphasized that members of the public will have an opportunity to weigh in on the committee’s decision once it has issued its recommendations. The Committee’s recommendations for Rawlings will be available to the public next Wednesday.
Last April, Murphy and Marchell brought their concerns about Slope Day to the student body.
“We all know that if we have a tragedy on the slope