Courtesy of Dustin Liu ’19

Students from campuses near and far gathered in Ithaca to discuss solutions regarding party culture.

March 27, 2018

Students From Across the Nation Gather at Cornell to Brainstorm Safer Party Culture

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Students from across the Ivy League and the nation brainstormed ways to promote a safe party scene at their respective schools through a working group at Cornell on March 16 -17.

Dustin Liu ’19, an organizer of the meeting and human resources manager for The Sun, said the ILR School’s Smithers Institute for Alcohol-Related Workplace Studies developed the idea to gather student leaders from various schools to “understand what we needed to do to create a safe party culture on campus.”

Students from MIT, Harvard University, Yale University, Princeton University, the University of Pennsylvania, Villanova, Tompkins Cortland Community College and others traveled to Cornell to participate in the working group, according to the ILR website.

Liu said the day was divided into three sections: the first aimed to “understand” the party culture at each school, the second looked at the difficulties of changing the culture and the last allowed participants to develop “action steps” that they could carry out at their own schools.

“One of the main things we saw was that it was really important to acknowledge how different campuses have different party cultures,” he said. This included assessing the differences between schools that do have Greek life and those that do not.

Liu also said that the “exclusivity” associated with party culture was a theme of the day. Students party with their organizations or attend parties they are invited to, instead having a “very open social scene,” according to Liu.

“We think that a large component of that is the lack of community that students may feel, which creates an unsafe culture where they don’t necessarily feel supported,” he said.

Liu discussed how underclassman are “coached” by upperclassman about how the party culture works. “Many people shared that upperclassman perpetuate the culture that they themselves do not necessarily agree with,” he said.

Lauren Goldstein ’20, an organizer of the working group, serves as president of Cayuga’s Watchers, a student run-organization that monitors parties to make sure they remain safe and a co-sponsor of the conference. Goldstein presented Cayuga’s Watchers as a “solution that has worked well on Cornell’s campus.”

“That being said, it wouldn’t necessarily work on every campus, because of the different party cultures and campus environments,” Goldstein said.

She said that participants brainstormed solutions that would be more applicable to their own campuses, as well as “more subtle cultural shifts and conversations, and [the] kind of steps to take with administrators at their schools.”

Cornell community members also spoke at the event, including Ryan Lombardi, vice president for student and campus life, Prof. William Sonnenstuhl, organizational behavior, and Prof. Samuel Bacharach, organizational behavior. The faculty speakers study party culture and organizational behavior, Goldstein said.

“The professors provided a better context for the students, explaining why the work they are doing is so important, and how their actions can have a lasting impact,” she said.

Liu said it was “really interesting” to look at how academia applied to students’ daily lives, including how students might not talk honestly about drinking and party culture because of how they perceive others’ experiences.

Liu said organizers are planning a “virtual working group” involving 14 different colleges — some of whom attended the March meeting and some of whom did not in order to continue engaging with the issue.

Manpreet Kaur, a student at Tompkins Cortland Community College, also participated in the workshop. She told The Sun her campus is alcohol-free, so students party outside of the campus.

Due to this, most of Kaur’s ideas concerned transportation resources for students. “Issues with drinking and driving increase because students on campus are traveling elsewhere to engage in this culture,” she said. “How can we make that safe?”

Kaur said the working group allowed her to think about the party culture on her campus.

“At TC3, party culture isn’t really the hot topic of conversation as it is a dry campus,” she said. “This conference really made me think about the ways in which students on our campus may be finding ways to engage in party culture, because students will always find a way to do so and it’s necessary to keep them safe.”