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Programs offered as alternative to drinking

By Elise Vasko, For The Miami Student

This year, a new initiative in Miami's residence halls requires residence hall staff to provide at least one alcohol alternative event once a week on a Thursday, Friday or Saturday night.

The programs themselves are not new to Miami's campus. In fact, residence halls have hosted the same kind of events before, and resident assistants have past experience with hosting such programs.

However, this year there is an increased commitment to what is now termed "alcohol alternative" programming, particularly on weekends.

While the idea behind the programming may not be new, the timing of the programs means residence halls may have to compete with Late Night Miami, a new campus-wide initiative that provides students with concerts, movies and other activities every Thursday, Friday and Saturday night.

Rob Abowitz, associate director of the Office of Residence Life, thinks otherwise.

"They are designed to compement the great work that our colleagues are doing in student activities and leadership with the Late Night Miami series," Abowitz said. "It does not compete with them. It complements them."

According to Abowitz, alcohol alternative programming events are typically smaller in-hall events. RAs can also choose to have a "take to" program in which they bring residents to larger events.

So far, the student response to the programming has been mixed. Some halls have had considerable success. Anderson Hall hosted several game nights with an attendance of about 20 students. Dodds Hall held a dumpling making night and Ogden Hall put on a "FIFA Friday"-- both well attended events. Larger events, such as a campus carnival in South Quad, have attracted as many as 150 students.

Still, not all students are enthusiastic about the alcohol alternative programs.

"The events are not popular in my hall," said first-year Nolan Long. "I think people will still go out on weekends whether you have these events or not."

However, Abowitz said the purpose of additional programming on weekend nights is not just to provide students with an alternative to drinking.

"In some cases, these late- night programs do serve as an alternative to students. In other cases, it's simply delaying the consumption of alcohol. A student who might otherwise be drinking from 8 p.m. all the way through late night is now starting to drink at 10 p.m., so it delays that scene that can be very destructive," Abowitz said.

Although alcohol alternative programming is now mandated for residence halls, no additional funding was granted to Community Leadership Teams and residence hall staffs for coordinating these events.

According to Abowitz, over the years, he has found some CLTs and residence hall staffs did not spend all of their money.

"They have done great events and not needed to spend all their money. So, we didn't think that this was necessarily going to create a financial hardship for the buildings that were already consolidating a bit of money," Abowitz said.

Resident Assistant Jonathan Timmons also did not see the lack of funding as a problem.

"I don't think it's unrealistic to ask RAs to do these programs without some extra form of funding… you're still programming, it's just called alcohol alternative programming now. The same amount of funding opportunities are still there," Timmons said.