The “Right” to Drink and Drug Part II
The moment that I polished off my first post on this topic I knew I needed to write a follow-up. While the first post may have left you thinking that I frame my stance on underage drinking and illegal drug use strictly on personal consequences and a student’s ability to accept, weigh and then decide what means the most to them, that is not the complete story. One of my strongest personal and professional values is that of community building and collective responsibility AND drinking/drugging tend to have a negative impact on communities; students need to realize that they are not only responsible for their own actions, but how those actions impact others. It is this premise, along with those mentioned previously that further guide my conversations with students.
When talking with students I want to know who else was affected by the incident in question. Did a roommate or RA have to watch over you or clean up your mess after a night of heavy drinking? Was another student’s study or sleep schedule interrupted because of your actions? Did a co-worker have to cover a shift or make up an excuse for you? Did a parent, friend or community member have to spend a restless night worried? Was a professor disrespected by your absence, tardiness, sleeping in class or poor performance on a test? AND after all these, the more follow-up questions such as, Have they ever been the caretaker for a drunk or high friend? Have they ever been inconvienced or disrespected as a result of another person’s drinking/drugging? How did it make you feel? What did you expect that person to do to make it up to you/ What can you do to restored order to the community that they have negatively affected?
Fortunately this conversation feeds very nicely into the one about person responsibility. In the long run, every personal consequence does come with a collective one. If they choose or are required to take an alcohol or drug diversion class then someone from health services is required to teach it and do their intake appointment. If they have to pay a fine to the courts then someone has to process the paperwork and attend the court hearing. If choose to make personal amends to someone who was hurt because of their actions that other person has to be willing to listen and relive the experience.
It is important for my conversations with students to address this ripple effect. Even after addressing the violation from this community consequence/collective responsibility side, students may still choose to engage in behaviors that suject them to very negative consequences. It is still their choice whether they drink/drug, but now they know that they are not only risking their own values, goals, and well-being, but also risking the values, goals and well-being of others.