OUR VIEW: Vigilance required for safety

Our View

On Sept. 16, an anonymous author claiming to represent a group of parents of freshman UA students sent University administrators an email alleging excessive alcohol consumption in greek organizations on campus. In response, UA Vice President of Student Affairs Mark Nelson told The Crimson White that none of the six UA students hospitalized for alcohol poisoning as of Oct. 1 of this year are greek.

“UA will continue to take allegations of hazing and the national problem of alcohol abuse very seriously,” Nelson said in the statement, which was released last Wednesday.

The next day, the University released a statement that said Nelson made an error and, in fact, four of the six students hospitalized for alcohol poisoning are greek.

Nelson should be commended for realizing his mistake and honestly correcting it. Unfortunately, while inaccurate statements to the press can be corrected quickly, poor decision making by University administrators often cannot be so easily rectified.

At least nine days after the six hospitalizations occurred, and 24 days after the original email was sent, the University’s top student affairs administrator was wrong about whether any of the student patients belonged to greek organizations.

If extracurricular activities are facilitating excessive drinking, identifying those activities and addressing the issues that lead to alcohol overconsumption is necessary to prevent more hospitalizations. If leading administrators aren’t doing that, students remain at risk.

Nelson said UA takes alcohol abuse very seriously, but obviously they aren’t taking it seriously enough. Student Affairs should have gotten to the bottom of the alcohol poisoning hospitalizations immediately after they happened; the fact they didn’t leads us to question whether Student Affairs can be trusted to thoroughly review incidents of alcohol abuse and bring an end to student activities that may be dangerous or even fatal.

It also makes it harder to trust Nelson’s other claim that “none of the alcohol poisonings were related to hazing.” How does he know? What steps did the University take to confirm that?

Ultimately, an administration that responds seriously to allegations and incidents of alcohol abuse will not hinder campus social life but enhance and protect it, by giving parents and students confidence that social activities will occur in a safe environment.

In the past, Mark Nelson has been one of the University’s most open and forthcoming administrators. Even his false statement last week provided the public with much more information about student alcohol abuse than had been previously available.

We hope Nelson will continue to be open with the public and willing to have a conversation about alcohol abuse.

In the future, though, we also hope he will be more proactive in investigating the activities that are leading to alcohol poisoning, because student safety depends on it.

Our View is the consensus of The Crimson White editorial board. Production Editor Stephen N. Dethrage did not participate in this editorial.