Despite alcohol use and misuse being such an important and potentially destructive issue for students, the Students' Union has decided to forgo alcohol awareness week this year. The rationale for discontinuing the event hinges on its supposed lecture-like nature and the idea that putting everything into one week is simply too much.
SU vice-president events Luke Valentine told the Gauntlet that a holistic approach to alcohol awareness, which would feature a number of special events throughout the year, would be more beneficial for students than concentrating everything within a single week. He said that in an effort to do so, the SU arranged an alcohol-free dance party in That Empty Space at the start of the year-- which they hope to put on again either this semester or next-- launched a responsible drinking campaign sponsored by Molson and are planning to hold a beer and wine tasting in the winter which will incorporate some educational aspects.
While it is good that the SU has not completely dropped the issue of alcohol awareness from its program, the cancellation of alcohol awareness week is irresponsible. Rather than the outright discontinuation of the event, it could have been adapted by the SU to proceed in such a way that they would be satisfied it was valuable for students. Even in its previous form, it is not clear that it was wholly useless. Certainly some students would find that the way it was conducted deterred them from considering its clearly valuable message of education, but that does not mean that it failed all students. To argue that an event is ineffective because it merely lectures individuals in an environment where much of the dissemination of information is carried out in precisely this form is absurd.
Additionally, though the SU has suggested that pursuing a number of different activities throughout the year is more beneficial than one week crammed with events, it does not follow that the week should then be cancelled. To provide students with the most opportunity for education regarding alcohol, it would be best to run a number of creative events throughout the year in addition to a dedicated alcohol awareness week. As alcohol use on campus is so important, and particularly bearing in mind that the SU runs a bar on campus, it seems that providing as much education as possible in as many forms as they can would be in the best interest of all. Running alcohol awareness week is an important tool for this end.
It is also worth considering that the primary method of encouraging the proper use of alcohol on campus is the "Here's to my Choice" campaign, which attempts to promote responsible drinking via T-shirts, water bottles and posters (hung mostly in the Den), and which is furthermore sponsored by a beer company.
Beyond letting students down, the campaign actually works against the SU's own interests. The Den operates on a zero tolerance policy for over-drinking and generally unacceptable behaviour. Enforcing such a policy at the campus bar would seemingly be easier if the organization running it also earnestly tried to educate students from ever involving themselves in such situations.
There are a number of reasons that cancelling alcohol awareness week was a bad decision. Hopefully the SU will not repeat this mistake in the coming years.