Campus Culture Working Group 2008-2009

 

Report of the Campus Culture Working Group

Appendix A
Appendix B

 Group Members:

  • Mavrick Afonso '11
  • Martha Arterberry
  • Sally Baker
  • Roger Bel '10
  • Barbara Davidson
  • Dekkers Davidson
  • Cary Finnegan '09
  • Jacob Fisher '10
  • Jennifer Holsten '90
  • Emma James '04
  • D. Whitney King
  • Jason Long
  • Margaret McFadden
  • Barbara Moore
  • Alex Pan '11
  • Jane Powers '86
  • Alex Richards '09
  • Charles (Chip) Rumsey IV
  • Jordan Schoonover '11
  • Paul Spillane '79
  • Jim Terhune
  • Doug Terp '84
  • Jim Tortorella
  • Richard Uchida '79

 

OFFICIAL NOTICE: "Champagne Steps" resolution and campus culture working groups

To The Colby Community:

We write to share news of a recent action that will, we anticipate, have important implications for every member of our community.

Following recommendations made by the members of Colby's senior administrative staff, the Board of Trustees has adopted this resolution:

 "Resolved: That the College shall terminate the 'Champagne Steps' celebration and take any and all measures to eliminate the excessive drinking that has come to characterize the way in which Colby seniors celebrate the end of their four years of study at the College. Further, the board charges the administration of the College to address comprehensively the broader issue of excessive drinking as a feature of Colby student life."

 "Champagne Steps," which began as an opportunity for students and faculty to toast one another with a glass of champagne, has over the years degenerated into a day-long occasion for members of the graduating class to consume excessive amounts of alcohol and to flout community norms. This year's event was marked by enough transports to nearly overwhelm the MaineGeneral emergency room. It also saw extensive damage to the Alfond Apartments, among other Colby facilities. Many faculty now routinely cancel classes and depart campus on the last day of classes, wanting no part of an annual ritual that sours and devalues their accomplishments and those of the graduating class.

These behaviors do not reflect our values as a community or the level of excellence to which we collectively -- students, faculty, trustees, administrators, and staff -- aspire. Therefore, we are calling on all constituencies in the Colby community to help us re-imagine social life on Mayflower Hill in the absence of alcohol abuse, and I am establishing two working groups to tackle specific aspects of Colby's culture as it relates to the use of alcohol.

The first group, to consist of student, faculty, and administrative representatives, will recommend appropriate and effective measures to eliminate the "Champagne Steps" event and any similar event that might be mounted to observe the end of the semester. These measures - as well as the resolution and the work of the group - will be publicized frequently and broadly, such that no Colby constituency can miss the message that "Champagne Steps" is over.

The second, and larger, group will consist of students, trustees, administrators, parents, and faculty and will be chaired by Vice President for Student Affairs Jim Terhune. It will propose the means by which the College can address the more systemic abuse of alcohol in student social life at the College and how Colby students, trustees, faculty, and staff can assist the College administration in addressing the issue of excessive drinking at Colby.

This effort is of critical importance to Colby and to all who live and work here. We look forward to working with all of you toward its full success.

Sincerely,

 

William D. Adams, President
Joseph F. Boulos '68, Chair of the Board of Trustees

 
Charge to Campus Culture Working Group

To:        Campus Culture Working Group
From:     William D. Adams
Date:     September 25, 2008
Re:        Group Charge

Like most other colleges and universities in the United States, Colby has a social culture heavily predicated on the overuse of alcohol. Studies have shown that Colby students are exposed early in their college careers to binge drinking as an acceptable social activity and that those who choose to indulge heavily in alcohol do so to the detriment of their academic performance. Further, students who drink moderately or who don't drink are unduly affected by a culture that uses alcohol as its social engine, since they are forced to deal with the consequences of their peers' behavior.

Colby's trustees, administration, faculty, and students have mounted many efforts over the years to shift the College's alcohol-based culture and to create an environment based on optimal opportunities to pursue education and a complementary social life – one that includes moderate and respectful use of alcohol for those who wish to use it and are of lawful age. These efforts have led to many positive changes at Colby. However, the problems and consequences of alcohol abuse persist on Mayflower Hill.

Most recently, in May 2008, hundreds of students gathered for what has become, over the past decade, an annual event at Colby – the celebration of the last day of classes by the graduating class on the Miller Library steps. This tradition, which began innocuously enough as an opportunity for students to toast one another with a glass of champagne, has over the years degenerated into a day-long excuse for members of the graduating class to consume excessive amounts of alcohol and to flout community norms. This year's event was marked by enough transports to the MaineGeneral emergency room to qualify the facility as a disaster site and by extensive damage to the Alfond Apartments, among other Colby facilities. Many faculty now cancel classes and flee campus on the last day of classes, wanting no part of an annual melee that sours and devalues their accomplishments and those of the graduating class.

This is not the community Colby faculty, administrators, and staff wish to work in, nor, we are convinced, the one in which most students would choose to live. Therefore, I am calling on all constituencies in the Colby community to help us re-imagine social life on Mayflower Hill in the absence of alcohol abuse, and I am establishing two working groups to tackle specific aspects of Colby's culture as it relates to the use of alcohol.

The overarching missions of the two groups are contained in a resolution adopted by the Board of Trustees following recommendations made by me and Colby's other senior administrators:

Resolved: That the College shall terminate the "Champagne Steps" celebration and take any and all measures to eliminate the excessive drinking that has come to characterize the way in which Colby seniors celebrate the end of their four years of study at the College. Further, the board charges the administration of the College to address comprehensively the broader issue of excessive drinking as a feature of Colby student life.

The first group, to consist of student, faculty, and administrative representatives, will recommend appropriate and effective measures to eliminate the "champagne steps" event and any other such event that might be mounted to observe the end of the semester. These measures – as well as the resolution and the work of the group – will be publicized frequently and broadly, such that no Colby constituency can miss the message that "champagne steps" is finished.

The second, and larger, group will consist of students, trustees, administrators, and faculty and will be chaired by Vice President for Student Affairs Jim Terhune. It will propose the means by which the College can address the more systemic abuse of alcohol in student social life at the College, and how Colby students, trustees, faculty, and staff can assist the College administration in addressing the issue of excessive drinking at Colby.

Some of the questions the larger group might consider are:

How can we create a climate on campus that encourages and supports open and honest dialogue among all College constituencies about the high-risk drinking culture at Colby and its consequences for life on Mayflower Hill?

  •  Since high-risk drinking behavior is largely a student issue, what steps can be taken to encourage students to lead in efforts to address such behavior?
  •  Since ever-increasing numbers of Colby students seek "chem-free" living environments and are interested in social options that are not focused on alcohol, why is this perspective all but completely absent  from conversations about the major social "traditions" of the College (e.g., playing drinking games, "loudness" events, doghead, and champagne steps)?
  • How do mixed messages in the society at large and on the campus affect student drinking behavior? What steps might be taken with respect to alcohol use at Colby-sponsored events (for alumni, employees, visitors, and of-age students) in order to "descramble" the messages we send?
  • What roles can faculty and staff, alumni, and families play in changing high-risk drinking culture?
  •  In empanelling this working group, Colby seeks to take the conversation about high-risk drinking among students to previously unexplored places. In that spirit, what bold and creative approaches might we devise to combat high-risk drinking and its consequences in our community?