Drinking decisions

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Journal File Photo

As incoming first-year students are likely already aware, Queen’s residences are alcohol-free during Frosh Week. 

This policy, which came into effect in the fall of 2011, was the product of discussions following the alcohol-related deaths of two undergraduate students in 2010. Despite the ban, the role of alcohol on campus continues to be a topic of research and debate. 

According to a 2013 Student Health Survey conducted by Queen’s Health, Counseling and Disability Services, a large percentage of the student population engages in drinking and binge drinking. 

However, the survey also found that students overestimated the amount their peers drink and how often they drink. 

Over the last 15 years, the Queen’s campus has seen dramatic changes to rules surrounding drinking on campus. Since 2003, the University has banned alcohol during Frosh Week, created new alcohol strategies and investigated further controls at on-campus bars.

                                                                                                   GRAPHIC BY ASHLEY QUAN

Drinking at Queen’s: a history

2003: The elimination of grade 13 introduces a “double cohort” of first-year students, many of whom are underage. It’s the first time a substantial underage population arrives at Queen’s. Today, over 90 per cent of first-year students are under the legal drinking age. 

2004: Queen’s establishes the University Council for Substance Use Prevention to create a campus alcohol strategy. In the long-term, the group aims to increase the number of student adopting “low-risk drinking practices”, instigate “positive change” in the “drinking subculture” and design health promotion and harm reduction strategies. 

2006: The University reconstructs the Alcohol Working Group with a mandate to “[promote] the development of a campus culture in which students who choose to drink alcohol are most likely to do so in a safe manner and make decisions about their use of alcohol, free from unhealthy or coercive influences.”

Fall semester of 2010: The accidental deaths of two first-year students due to alcohol-related incidents sparks a Coroner’s investigation and campus-wide conversation surrounding alcohol use. Cameron Bruce, Sci ’14, died after falling out of a sixth-floor window in the Victoria Hall residence in Sept. 2010. Habib Khan, ArtSci ’14, died after falling three stories through a skylight above Duncan McArthur Hall in Dec. 2010.

2011: The Coroner releases recommendations following his investigation into the accidental student deaths, including a suggestion that the University “undertake an accelerated review of the management of, possession and use of alcohol in residences”.

This review, according to the Coroner’s recommendations, would look into “the feasibility of obtaining student consent for the inspection of residence rooms for alcohol”.

The report also suggested that Queen’s review its Campus Alcohol Policy and the way the student government judicial system treats alcohol-related issues. 

2011: The Alcohol Working Group reviews the Campus Alcohol Policy.

Spring 2011: As part of its campus strategy, Queen’s Residences develops a Residence Alcohol Action Plan for 2011-12, which includes a one-year pilot for alcohol-free residence halls during Frosh Week. The plan is intended to reduce the misuse of alcohol, “especially during the first introductory weeks of a student’s time at Queen’s”. Concerns are raised by the campus community that students will be driven towards drinking “behind closed doors” and off campus, according to a fact sheet released by the University. 

Fall 2011: Queen’s residences are alcohol-free during Frosh Week for the first time.

Spring 2012: Students respond to proposed changes to the Campus Alcohol Policy, arguing that the policy will push students off campus to drink. Outgoing AMS executive members criticize plans to curb alcohol service in campus bars in an op-ed published in The Journal, arguing that it will force students to consume alcohol at less safe off-campus bars.

2012: The review of the Campus Alcohol Policy is completed, introducing restrictions such as the elimination of “triples” being sold at campus establishments. The Principal’s Commission releases its Report on Mental Health, including several recommendations surrounding alcohol consumption. 

2014: The University reviews itsalcohol-free Frosh Week, and cites positive results. The ban resulted in first-year students experiencing less pressure to drink during their first days on campus, according to Arig al Shaibah, Assistant Dean of Student Life and Learning. In 2013, al Shaibah said the University saw marked improvements in the results of an orientation and transition survey following the ban.

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