After six alcohol-related student deaths in two years, the chancellor at UW-Stout says it's time for some big changes. They include a full schedule of Friday classes and strong disciplinary actions for things like underage drinking tickets or using a fake IDs.
Students got an e-mail about the changes Tuesday (3/30). On Wednesday, It wasn't hard to find student opinions on the chancellor's announcement:
"I don't really think it's fair to punish those of us who haven't done anything wrong," said Tom Donnillon.
"We're here to go to school and get a future; if you want to party, go somewhere else," said Jesse Pischler.
"I think he does have good intentions," said Meghan Weiland.
"I’ll just be more careful and do what he says," said Nick Nussberger.
“It kind of seems like a scare tactic," said Angelica Accetta.
Undoubtedly some of the harshest comments were posted online. A Facebook group questioning Chancellor Charles Sorensen's decision quickly added more than 1,200 members. It’s called “Who Is the chancelor [sic] trying to kid? This is Stout!!!”
"We can't sit idly by when some of our students make decisions that are going to adversely affect them and others for the rest of their lives all because of alcohol," said Stout Spokesperson Doug Mell.
Mell said the school knew not all students would be on board with the decision. But, he said after six alcohol-related student deaths in two years, the chancellor felt morally and ethically obligated to act. Most recently, 24-year-old Michael Dixon died from his injuries after being hit by a car; another Stout student was arrested for OWI.
"It's heart-wrenching," said Mell. “The loss of life on any campus is absolutely heart-wrenching."
Mell said students could be put on probation, suspended or even expelled for repeated underage drinking tickets, selling or giving alcohol to minors, hosting house parties, or for alcohol related fights or vandalism. He added that it's important to point out that students won't be suspended for a single mistake, like one underage ticket. He said the full Friday class schedule will start this fall in an effort to cut back on the tradition of ‘Thirsty Thursday.’
"When all is said and done, we're just asking people to be responsible for their behavior. I don't think that's too much to ask. The chancellor doesn’t think it’s too much to ask," Mell said.
But, will the chancellor's plan work? Mell said it's a start. Students aren't as confident.
"If people are going to drink on Thursday night, they're going to drink on Thursday night," said Nicole Trickett.
"It's college,” said Ryan Grobe. “How are you going to stop drinking?"
The chancellor also wants to work with city leaders on a plan to crack down on house parties, possibly even holding landlords accountable.