April 16, 2004

The Slope Plans for Day

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While students anticipate this year’s Slope Day, extensive preparations are being made to ensure the success of the event and the safety of all participants. Many safety precautions are being taken in an attempt to minimize accidents and also to accommodate injured and severely intoxicated students if necessary.

Planning for this year’s Slope Day is centered on “a comprehensive approach, part of which involves reshaping the environment of the event,” said Tim Marchell ’82, director of alcohol policy initiatives. The main components of this approach include regulating access to the slope and serving alcohol instead of allowing students to bring their own and the concert, which will feature OAR, Kanye West, Dilated Peoples and Matt Nathanson.

Marchell hopes that the presence of the bands will discourage students from drinking excessively, early in the day so that they can enjoy the bands, which will perform through the afternoon.

Consistent with last year’s structure, caterers at Slope Day will only serve alcohol to students over 21. However, a significant amount of the drinking, for students both over and underage, occurs away from the slope.

“Our main concern is what happens off the slope,” said Steve Blake, president of the Slope Day Programming Board. Sharon Dittman, associate director for community relations at Gannett noted the same concerns.

“We want to caution people about pregaming … for a variety of reasons. Sometimes people drink too much too fast and that’s when they really run the risk of alcohol poisoning,” she said.

It has been argued that the prominence of pregaming and drinking off campus runs contrary to many of the safety features of Slope Day. Since the problems surrounding excessive drinking often occurs off campus, the catering services and fences do not address the real problem. According to Blake, the fence only “deflects drinking as supposed to actually changing it.”

Blake encouraged students to drink safely and use common sense. Marchell suggested that students “set a limit on how much to drink, pace yourself and keep track of how many [drinks] you’ve had.”

Despite these warnings, preparations to cope with possible Slope Day incidents at Gannett have begun as well.

“It starts with … posters and conversations going on among students. We really want people to be thinking about what they want Slope Day to be like for them. We want them to understand the rules and the timing of the day,” Dittman said.

With all the available information on what Slope Day offers, Dittman hopes that students will plan accordingly and safely.

“Planning for the day is one of the most important things students can do for their health,” she added.

On Slope Day, Gannett will be open from 9 a.m. until 4 p.m. the following day.

According to Dittman, Gannett is also preparing with extra supplies and briefing its staff on procedures. “Our lobby is turned into a triage unit” with I.V. pulls and mattresses on the floor, Dittman said.

Students who need further medical attention will be sent to Cayuga Medical Center. In addition to Gannett, Bangs Ambulance, the CUPD and Cornell EMS work to ensure everyone’s safety on Slope Day. The EMS will be directly on the slope in golf carts with emergency bags to provide immediate assistance, Dittman added.

Hundreds of volunteers, divided into Type 1 and Type 2, are also trained to provide assistance. Type 1 volunteers include those who “provide a positive presence on the slope, interact with students and call for appropriate help should the situation arise,” Blake said.

Those in Type 2 are “more seriously trained volunteers, who staff the event, handle ID check and gate procedures,” Blake added.

With typically 600 to 1000 volunteers of students, staff, faculty and administrators, Blake credited them as an important part of Slope Day.

“Without the [staff and volunteers], we couldn’t put the event on,” he said.

The University’s medical amnesty protocol which urges students to call for help when necessary will remain in place on Slope Day.

“We don’t want people to think twice if they have a friend who’s in trouble or if they’re in trouble and medical care is needed,” Dittman said.

Under the protocol, students involved in disorderly conduct or underage drinking will not face judicial action if they complete the BASICS (Brief Alcohol Screening and Intervention for College Students) program at Gannett instead. Dittman described the policy as a “non-punitive approach.”

Last year on Slope Day, 19 students were treated for alcohol related emergencies at either Gannett or Cayuga Medical Center, according to Marchell. While approximately half of these students were underage, there were no high school students. Dittman cited stricter access and regulations to the slope as the reason.

Students will only be permitted entry to the slope with a Cornell ID or as a guest if they are over 18 years of age.

Aside from the 19 students who were treated, Marchell added that a larger number of students received medical attention but did not require transport from the slope. The majority of these cases that were brought to Gannett’s attention occurred in the middle of the afternoon. “The common denominator is that they typically start drinking before coming to the event and [usually consume] hard liquor,” Marchell said.

However, Marchell acknowledged that these statistics only reflect those students who actually sought help.

“We’re even more concerned about students that we’re not identifying,” he said. Because of this, Marchell hesitated to interpret the slight decline last year in the number of students who needed treatment and reported drinking at extremely high levels.

Although there is drinking in residence halls and at fraternities, he noted that the highest percentage of drinking occurs at “private parties off campus.”

Another concern, related to heavy alcohol consumption, is sexual assault. Nina Cummings, victim advocate at Gannett, said, “Of course it’s hard to talk about sexual assault [on a college campus] without talking about alcohol.” While Cummings noted that “you have to guess the risk is greater” with the presence of alcohol, she said that there are no statistics to show an increase in sexual assault on Slope Day. However, statistics only represent victims that sought help. “What we know is only what people choose to report … [there are] lots of reasons why people choose not to talk about it when they’re assaulted,” Cummings said. Regardless of whether sexual assaults increase on Slope Day, Gannett will offer the same medical and psychological resources and services.

Marchell encouraged students to call Gannett’s 24 hour consultation line (255-5155) if necessary.

Archived article by Diana Lo
Sun Senior Editor