On Sept. 9, students received a notification about an out-of-control event that took place off campus on the night of Sept. 8, leading many to wonder: what happened and how will this incident affect students at the University of Saskatchewan?
The incident reportedly involved substance abuse and vandalism of property, resulting in calls to the police and fire departments and four students being hospitalized. Patti McDougall, vice-provost teaching and learning and sender of the notification, adds that the university received a call from a concerned neighbour who witnessed a large group of students being bused to a private home.
While little added information has been released on the incident, McDougall reports that all students involved in the event are safe and doing well.
She recognizes that students may question the necessity of such a notification when the event took place off campus, but she hopes that it will increase awareness among other students about alcohol use.
“We looked at this instance and asked ourselves, should we be making people aware that something has taken place? But more importantly, should we be signalling to people who may be hosting other such events, because it’s very common at this time of year … in hopes that there’ll be an increased focus of attention on what goes on and on the safety of what goes on,” McDougall said.
Marlize Fourie, third-year physiology and pharmacology major and project co-ordinator of What’s Your Cap?, believes that McDougall’s notification was the right response.
“I think that the way the university … did respond was good. By making the student body aware of the incident, it enables us to do something about it. If it was ‘swept under the rug’ like these incidents often are, the majority of the student body, especially those who want to make a difference, do not have all the information they need to promote change on campus and create a better future for the student body as a whole,” Fourie said, in an email to the Sheaf.
Colleen Dell, research chair in One Health and Wellness and assistant co-ordinator of WYC, agrees.
“The university is on the right track by involving WYC in its response — an effective response needs to be done in co-operation with the student body,” Dell said, in an email to the Sheaf.
A group that McDougall will work with in response to the incident, WYC is a student initiative that promotes moderation and substance abuse awareness by providing safe and fun alternatives to drinking, distributing the Low Risk Drinking Guidelines and challenging students to examine their drinking habits.
The university plans to craft an alcohol and substance abuse policy, an initiative spearheaded by McDougall that will involve student leaders, such as Fourie and the vice-presidents student affairs of both the U of S Students’ Union and the Graduate Students’ Association. McDougall hopes that a draft will be available by the end of December 2016.
Rita Hanoski, health education and promotion co-ordinator of Student Health Services, is in favour of such a policy, but she believes it is important to highlight the positive statistics in regards to alcohol use among U of S students.
For example, according to a study conducted by the American College Health Association in 2016, 12.5 per cent of U of S students did not consume alcohol in the month previous to the study and 12.9 per cent have never used alcohol.
Despite these statistics, the task of WYC is not over, and Fourie looks forward to working with McDougall as the policy develops.
“Because we are a student led group, we are able to give our message on a peer to peer basis rather than an adult to student perspective and this often results in our message being received,” Fourie said. “We hope that this incident can be made into a learning opportunity for students and that WYC, together with Peer Health Mentors, can facilitate that learning.”
Jessica Klaassen-Wright / News Editor
Graphic: Lesia Karalash / Graphics Editor