Debates regarding Slope Day drug and alcohol limitations continued last night as the Slope Day Steering Committee opened its discussion to the Cornell student body for the second evening in a row.
Roughly forty students attended this forum to discuss the goals of the steering committee and critique their preliminary recommendations. Formed by President Hunter R. Rawlings III, the committee was established to formulate recommendations to prevent the substance abuse related incidents that can occur on Slope Day.
Addressing the student contingency, committee members began the forum with a definition of their Slope Day goals, including: offering a festive occasion to be celebrated by the Cornell community, guaranteeing the public health and safety of participants (which includes reducing the risk posed by alcohol-related incidents), creating a civil, responsible Slope Day community, compliance with state, city and university policies and laws, restricting festival participants to the University community and their guests and inhibiting interference with classes held on that day.
In efforts to accomplish these goals, the committee’s preliminary recommendations for Slope Day included providing entertainment on the Slope, providing some sort of meal on the Slope, permitting students of legal age to bring soft alcoholic beverages in unopened cans. The final recommendation was to fence off the Slope to create staff checkpoints which would limit attendance to the Cornell community and their guests and distinguish those permitted to drink by issuing “over 21” and “under 21” wristbands to participants.
While establishing their goals and recommendations, the committee emphasized the importance of Slope Day to the Cornell community and their interest in its continuity.
“We believe in Slope Day,” said Kent Hubble ’67, dean of students and chairman of the steering committee, as he recognized the campus-wide community that Slope Day generates.
While most students agreed that limiting alcohol consumption to soft-alcoholic beverages would reduce the drinking-related injuries and illnesses associated with Slope Day, many agreed that the proposed measures would result in more harm by encouraging unsupervised pre-parties and post-parties and by enticing underage students to drink high concentrations of hard alcohol in small quantities to avoid being caught with alcohol.
“The University policies of restricting the total amount of beer you can bring does not allow underage students to bring alcohol on the Slope. This encourages students to bring hard alcohol in plastic bottles and ultimately does more harm than good,” said John Pantalena ’02.
Other students believed that the abuse of alcohol on Slope Day was attributable to a campus-wide culture that promotes underage and binge drinking.
“We have a culture of drinking. Slope Day promotes that by its nature,” said Amanda Schlager ’03. “The optimal proposal would be to provide another option for students that doesn’t involve alcohol…. Hopefully, the committee will pass a concert.”
While recommendations regarding alcohol limitations generated discussion, recommendations made by the committee to fence in the Slope were met with adamant opposition from both the student body and a statement written by President Rawlings in response to the preliminary recommendations.
“I think people are opposed to the fence and I think we’ll get rid of it,” said Uzo Asonye, president of the Student Assembly (S.A.) and member of the steering committee, acknowledging the proposed fence’s controversy and its general lack of acceptance.
However, Asonye and other committee members were pleased with the turnout and student feedback that both forums generated.
“I think we got a lot of good ideas,” Asonye said. “Students should take this opportunity to e-mail committee members and voice their opinions.”
Also pleased with student participation in the forum was Scott Belsky ’02, former co-chair of the Student Activities Finance Commission (SAFC) and member of the steering committee. Referring to the University’s concern regarding liability issues associated with Slope Day in addition to its concern for the participants’ health, he appreciated student concern with the provisions and said, “As students, our priority is not liability.”
“We take the comments from the students very seriously and they will certainly inform our deliberations as we prepare our final recommendations for the president,” added Timothy Marchell ’82, director of Alcohol Policy Initiatives and member of the steering committee.
Planning to incorporate the student feedback into further Slope Day deliberations, the committee plans to meet again throughout the semester to finalize festival recommendations to be approved by President Rawlings.