Drug & Alcohol Resource Team Navigates First Semester

Editor’s note: This article was initially published in The Daily Gazette, Swarthmore’s online, daily newspaper founded in Fall 1996. As of Fall 2018, the DG has merged with The Phoenix. See the about page to read more about the DG.

The new Drug and Alcohol Resource Team (DART) kicked off its first semester this year with various events, info sessions, and freshmen workshops over orientation. The group, colloquially conceivable as “SHCs for drugs and alcohol,” was founded late last spring after students were inspired by speaker Jason Kilmer’s scientific-yet-entertaining presentation on alcohol and behavior. Assistant Director of Student Life Kelly Wilcox brought Kilmer to speak on campus last spring and received a deluge of positive student feedback. “[Kilmer’s talk] was just a perfect fit in terms of presentation, style, substance, and information,” Wilcox said. “In the follow-up feedback sessions, students felt strongly that it was valid and relevant and could be beneficial for the student body at large.”

Claire Almand ’11, now a DART member, said the idea for a student-centered team to tackle questions about drugs and alcohol grew out of post-Kilmer conversations. “DART’s primary role would be a peer-based resource,” Almand said, and “we don’t judge. We’re not going to tell you to drink, not to drink, to drugs or not to. We’ll be honest, unbiased and try to answer your questions as best as we can.”

Wilcox spent the summer researching alcohol and drug education, pulling together resources from conferences to develop the training protocol for DART. Students chosen through an application process in the spring returned to campus before freshmen orientation for training, which included detailed presentations related to drugs and alcohol as well as talks with Public Safety, Alcohol Education and Intervention Specialist Tom Elverson ’75, and the Director of Worth Health Center Beth Kotarski. According to DART member CJ Seitz-Brown ’10, training will be ongoing throughout the year as the team speaks with other schools with similar programs.

Wilcox is careful to emphasize that DART’s main mission is to advocate for informed and safe choices. “ we’re here to educate the campus and to be a resource for fellow students. This includes non-drinkers and those who drink socially,” Wilcox said. “We are in no way advocating risky behavior or illegal behavior.”

DART team member and Phi Psi brother Kevin Friedenberg ’10 echoed Wilcox’s sentiment. “Basically, we want to inform the Swarthmore community about responsible alcohol use and responsible behaviors,” Friedenberg said. “We’re doing a little bit of everything, providing a resource that students can comfortably access.”

DART’s initial student outreach push included several workshops for freshmen during orientation. The workshops were largely interactive, including real-life examples and tutorials on how to properly mix a drink. Residents of Dana 2nd and 3rd played a game show to test their drug and alcohol know-how, while other dorms resorted to the conventional small-group discussion. Despite the requisite alcohol.edu, Almand found that freshmen drug and alcohol background varied widely across campus. “Some knew exactly what the standard drink was; some had no idea,” Almand said.

In Friedenberg’s experience, “the kids really got into it. What was nice about [the workshops] was that we were more on the level of the freshmen. We wanted to educate them about campus policy because that’s really something that every student should know.”

First-year Eddie Montenegro ’13 found the DART activities to be largely amusing, “The DART student was excited about the whole thing, which I didn’t really expect since I thought it was going to be just generic.” Jenny Koch ’13 preferred the workshops to the web-based alcohol education, “alcohol.edu was just goofy. The DART workshop was better. I found it useful to have a student-led workshop versus an administrator or even RA talk.”

New student Curran Bice ’13, however, thought the DART activities were redundant. “It really was not that informative because it was largely based on alcohol.edu,” Bice said. Another Willets resident found DART’s presentation “helpful and valuable” but thought the phrase “choke to death on their own vomit” was repeated much too often throughout all of Orientation.

Outside of orientation, DART isn’t all workshops, no play. The team hosted the first-ever Pub Nite Lite, a Pub Nite with less alcohol and DART members present, to raise money for the senior class as well as introduce the campus to DART. Both freshmen and upperclassmen can look forward to more DART-sponsored events throughout the year including a Parlor Party and another Pub Nite Lite.
DART is also looking to reform and improve various aspects of Swarthmore’s party scene. Almand is particularly excited about a new weekend hotline that DART is setting up. “Between the hours of 10 PM and 4 AM, there will be a sober, knowledgeable DART member on call if you need help escorting someone to Worth or have a question,” Almand said.

The most major proposed overhaul includes a new training system for party hosts, the signatories of the party permit. Current policy only requires the permit to be signed by 2 students who are affiliated with the party and over 21. Friedenberg would like to see hosts “who are trained to spot dangers, know how to deal with an emergency situation, and can keep an eye on the party.” Some may question the need for host-training, especially since trained Party Associates are present at most events; Wilcox, however, believes there need to be trained students at the door and within the walls of the party. “The people who would benefit from the information that DART has don’t get it now. We want the host and the PAs to be informed and work as a team,” Wilcox said.

The proposed party host training is still up in the air, and DART will be in contact with the administration and student body alike over the coming semester. DART’s proposed mission and goals are especially relevant in light of the recent raid at Haverford. “It’s kind of ironic,” Wilcox says, “I had just sent an email to the DART team praising them for creating change without some event to prompt it when the raid happened.”

Friedenberg believes the event at Haverford only reinforces DART’s main message, “one thing we always try to say in the workshop is that the drinking age in Pennsylvania is 21. If you’re going to be drinking, realize that you’re going to be breaking the law. You need to be responsible.” Regardless of police involvement, as Almand aptly sums up: “we just want to make sure students are safe and aware.”

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