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Yes, Virginia Tech, you have a drinking problem.

January 30, 2011

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Author’s note:  As a point of reference, this blog posting was written following the tragic loss  of David Gayle, a Virginia Tech student who fell to his death while attending an off-campus party.

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An article in this morning’s Roanoke Times  discussed the Virginia Tech student drinking problem and the uhh… “steps that Virginia Tech administration has taken to address it.”

Bulldog disagrees.

Uh-oh.  Buckle those seatbelts folks.  Bulldog doesn’t hold back much:

Dr Steven Clarke, Virginia Tech Alcohol Abuse Prevention Center comments on the issue: “….a well-meaning bystander could have said:  ‘This is dangerous.  Get down.  Don’t do that.  You’re going to hurt yourself.”

I hate to say this, as I have met and respect Dr. Clarke:  That expecation is however is, shall we say,  unrealistic?   Dr. Clarke, you’re smarter than that.

Umm, how many sober, clear thinking, and/or rational bystanders do you  propose were crammed inside that small student apartment, or out on the balcony on night in question?   In fairness, yes…  perhaps one or two party-goers may have seen through the fog of alcohol  inebriation.

Those rare exceptions to  mob mentality may have realized that ‘harmless’ party fun was headed into dangerous territority and that David Gayle climbing onto the balcony railing (in an effort to reach the roof) was not a good idea.  Other students at the party likely cheered him on.

The majority of people in our society however, are not wave-makers.  Individual thought and expression of same appears to be waning in popularity.    Odds are good that a college student at a social gathering would be reluctant to express dissent and risk alienation from the rest of the group.   Bulldog types unafraid to stand up, take a stand, and speak the truth are becoming a rare breed…  we’re often shunned.  Shrug.

Now I’m not a psychiatrist.  I also don’t claim to be an expert specializing  in addressing addictive behaviors.  I haven’t had professional training in dealing with peer-pressure or the associated alcohol related issues.   I do however have some experience in addressing difficult problems.   An important first step to doing so is acknowledging that one exists in the first place.  Next, one needs to formulate an effective course of action.

Therein lies the root of my frustrations with Virginia Tech administration:  Perhaps they reluctantly  acknowledged the problem existed, when they performed a study on student alcohol abuse several years ago. What’s the holdup on phase two?

There are, no doubt, some extremely philosophical and ‘book-smart’ intellectual types running the show at Virginia Tech.   The sort of folks who are great at laying stuff out on paper.  It appears to me however they lack the grit to implement their knowledge into ‘real world’ application.  Like our representatives in Government, a bit out of touch with reality.  Gee.  Maybe that’s whats gone wrong with our country.  Ya think?

I more than THINK that.  I KNOW that.  From deep in my gut.  Lot’s of Americans owned firearms in the 20’s and 30’s too.  The difference between now and then is an issue of teaching children personal responsibility and good value systems.    Today it’s much easier to blame access to items that can be dangerous.  Let’s restrict guns because they can kill… Pseudoephedrine because it can be used to make crytal meth.   Chemistry sets for the youth?  Model Rocketry?  No No… risky concepts!  Blame easy access to dangerous things, not the individual.

I understand now, it’s all become so clear: The recent tragedy in Arizona wasn’t the fault of the wack job who ran around making videos of himself as he posed in a red thong.  Closer to home, Cho wasn’t the problem on April 16th.   It was because some Americans own guns!

In general I don’t like commercials, but a quote from Geico sums things up rather nicely:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=avk1LTnIrXI&feature=related

“Maybe we should chug on over to mambypamby land where maybe we can find some confidence…”

Welcome to the new America, the land of fisher price consumer goods.  We’re moving towards a society which prevents us from accessing items that if misused are dangerous.  Restrictions necessary for our own good.

But I am heading off into a tangent here..

Back on topic.

Time and time again, I have brought up the issue but my pleas have fallen on deaf ears.

Dr. Clarke reached out to members of the New River Valley Apartment Council over a year ago at a public meeting.  I know, because I was there.  As he spoke, the group sitting across the table from Dr. Clarke gazed fiercelyat him with dagger like stares.   If he expected much cooperation from Blacksburg’s property managers in addressing the binge-drinking parties, Dr. Clarke was sadly mistaken.

My impression from the meeting was that he was viewed as an annoyance.  The NRVAC view of Bulldog?  A bit more profanity laden.   Didn’t bother me much, I never professed to win popularity contests.  My concerns regarding the problem were geniune, and that was before things had progressed to the point they are at now.

Students are dying.

The Campus Alcohol Abuse Prevention Center’s (CAAPC) proposed “get to know your neighbor” type program, the creation of an alcohol abuse anonymous tipline, and their recent “inform the parents” initiative, have all failed to have much impact.

I don’t live in Mamby-Pamby land.  Sometimes one has to use less passive approaches to solving problems.

An image taken of a Hokie party I  witnessed:

“This is dangerous.  Get down.  Don’t do that.  You’re going to hurt yourself.”

Hmm…. I don’t think anyone is listening…..

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9HeIB6tSOnM

Doesn’t sound like a lot of concerned bystanders in this youtube video either…

I now at the risk of sounding like a broken record will state again (as I have proposed to Dr. Clarke et. al. on numerous occasions):

Virginia Tech, in order to address the problem  you need to enforce this student code of conduct that you’re so proud of.    You know, the one that states students are expected to conduct themselves to certain standards both on and off campus.

To accomplish this, actually gathering evidence at the time of the infraction becomes necessary:  voice mail messages by anonymous neighbors, and red party cups littering lawns the next morning won’t cut it.   Who hosted the party?  Who attended? What transpired there?   If you’re going to conduct judical reviews, evidence becomes rather important to prosecute, or am I mistaken on that point?

It’s too bad that while working security in Blacksburg I was a bit busy stopping the tug of war between two monster trucks to take pictures.  As for the drunken bystanders, they cheered the contestants on.   Surely VT would of pursued their judicial referrals if they had evidence… one would hope anyway.

Just what do you think would of happened if the chain had broken?

 I guess it would be another scenario where politicans stand around and point fingers at each other.

Tech administration, without obtaining evidence of conduct infractions, quite frankly you’re just making alot of noise and saber rattling.  Your current approach is not impressing the binging party goers, and certainly not impressing me.  Incidentally, students are not particularly stealthy  as they commit  violations.  It wouldn’t be overly difficult to photograph or video  ‘code of conduct’ infractions while they occur.  That quite frankly is what needs to happen to enforce the code, and reduce the problem.   I know, because I used to work as a security officer at one of the most party prone housing complexes.  Once you actually take action, and confront some of the offenders things will improve.  It’s really not all that hard to figure out.

Action speaks louder then words.

Take note.   The next set of lawsuits against Virginia Tech will tie in to not addressing the alcohol issue.   Warning signs of how serious things have gotten are quite visible. Yet administration remains ineffective in it’s approach to addressing it.  History repeating itself?

Nice weather will hit Blacksburg between the end of Febuary and Mid-March.  Since I really don’t anticipate a change in approach, maybe I’ll hit the streets and take some pictures for this blog.

Here’s an idea… restrict the consumption of alcohol…… ooh wait, been there, done that…. didn’t work out so well did it.

I know, let’s have an Amethyst initiative.  That way drinking can be a high school problem versus a college problem… then the more irresponsible among future college students can hopefully get it all out of their system prior to reaching college.  That won’t solve the problem, but it will help get insitutions like Virginia Tech off the hot seat.  You know, the old shift the blame/move the responsibility approach to life.

Ever seen a blazing couch fire in the middle of a Blacksburg street?  I have.  Twice.

-Bulldog

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