MSU panel aims to curb alcohol abuse

By KAYLEE WALDEN/ Montana State News

A Montana State University panel is hoping to sober up the institution’s image before it gets labeled a “party school,” according to MSU Dean of Students Matt Caires, who is spearheading the Presidential Commission on Substance Abuse Prevention along with student body President Kiah Abbey.

“Every so often, it’s essential to dust off your policies and say ‘What’s changed?’ and see what you can do to improve,” said Caires, referring to MSU’s alcohol and drug policies.

The group plans to target high-risk student demographics on campus and hazardous locations around town to make improvements. At a Monday meeting commission members agreed that bar specials, such as free drinks after Bobcat football victories and $1 shots for hour-long periods, are particularly hazardous to some students.

Abbey has also proposed reaching out to a number of households near campus that frequently throw parties and encouraging them to explore alternate forms of entertainment.

“The Bozeman community offers an incredible amount of other opportunities to engage in – physical, mental or spiritual,” Abbey said. “People should get up into the mountains, eat at the great restaurants and engage in the many community events that happen throughout the year.”

Each Monday from now until June, the commission will listen to presenters – from downtown bar owners to fraternity members – to hear their perspective on the severity of substance abuse on campus and in the community.

“Alcohol seems to be inherently weaved into college culture,” said Jennifer Haubenreiser, the president of the American College Health Association who spoke at last Monday’s meeting.“We’re not trying to eliminate it, especially for those who drink responsibly. We’re trying to find a middle ground.”

In June, the commission will compile its findings and make recommendations to MSU President Waded Cruzado on how to best address substance abuse and improve prevention strategies.

“It will take baby steps,” Haubenreiser said.

-Edited by Rebecca Marston

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