It still is unclear whether alcohol contributed to UCF freshman Ann Hefferin’s death, or even had anything to do it with it, but one thing is for certain — alcohol abuse on UCF’s campus has become a major issue everyone needs to face.
When I first got into journalism, I was excited to dig into investigative journalism and work through different public information officers and sources to get the truth for the students. Unfortunately, I went on to find out that those aren’t always the stories I would get to report.
There is nothing worse for me than to have to write about someone young dying. Especially when alcohol may have been involved, and in some cases, the death could have been avoided, like in a DUI crash.
Whether it be the recent death of John Grosso, who we later learned was over the legal limit, or even Chelsea Torres, who died in an accident on her 21st birthday in a wrong-way crash, these accidents could have been avoided.
I applaud UCF for requiring new students to take a course on alcohol education, but in all honesty it’s not enough — just like the task forces of police that raid bars aren’t enough. As students, we need to look out for each other. The students are going to be the ones to solve this problem, not the administration or the police forces.
At the same time, the recent action to suspend all “wet events” by the UCF Greek Council is one of the worst decisions anyone could make. This wont stop people from drinking, it’ll stop fraternities and sororities from registering their events with alcohol. That means instead of having all the tough measures about security, and steps to check ID’s to prevent underage drinking, there will be more under-the-UCF-radar house parties and pre-games, where underage drinkers will have an easier time getting to alcohol.
Remember when US government officials tried prohibition in the 1920’s? How did that work out for them?
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When I say this falls on the students, I mean it’s time for us to accept personal responsibility for what we do and look out for our friends. It’s easy to tell when someone has had one too many to drink, and the goal of the night shouldn’t be to black out — instead it should be to have a good time and get home safely. Communicate with each other and make sure your friend doesn’t drink too much or drink and get behind a wheel. And you certainly shouldn’t encourage others to keep drinking when they’re already drunk.
We all think that something so tragic can’t happen to us, until it’s too late.
I also want to make another thing clear: Medical Amnesty can save lives and it’s a shame that the University of Florida has it, but the state’s largest university here in Orlando doesn’t.
The University of Florida describes its Medical Amnesty Policy as this: “The Medical Amnesty Policy is designed to encourage students to make responsible decisions and seek prompt, professional, medical assistance and treatment in serious or life-threatening situations that result from alcohol and/or other drug abuse such as alcohol poisoning or drug overdose. MAP seeks to diminish fear of disciplinary and conduct sanctions in such situations and to encourage individuals and organizations to seek needed medical attention for students in distress from alcohol and drug use.”
Medical Amnesty would help make it easy for students to call 911 when their friends have too much to drink, or may take an illegal substance, instead of putting off the potentially life-saving call because they’re afraid of the consequences their friends may face for it. We should remove the obstacles that get in the way of saving lives like others in the state, because nothing is more valuable than life.
To sum it all up, in this journalist’s opinion, Student Government officials should work with the Golden Rule Review Committee and Vice President of Student Development and Enrollment Services Maribeth Ehasz to catch up with other state universities and enact a Medical Amnesty Policy. Greek Council should end its ban of all safely organized and registered “wet events,” and students should learn from the tragedies of the past to help solve this major issue affecting universities across the nation.
Although we don’t know whether Ann had too much to drink that night or not, we know her death has caused our campus to reconsider how we deal with the college drinking problem faced across the country. We owe it to Ann to make the right changes, in our personal choices and at the university-level. Changing policies to make the UCF drinking situation even more dangerous than it is only makes this tragic situation worse. But enacting Medical Amnesty to truly make students safer, will help Ann’s impact on UCF last forever, even though her time on campus was much too short.
It’s time we all stand up and do the right thing — in honor of Ann.