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Forums address on-, off-campus social scenes

Imagine you're at a hot West Campus party. You walk up to a University-paid man serving beer from a keg, hand him your I.D. and walk away with a cupful of smooth-sippin' suds.

Subsidizing the little-used University-licensed bartenders was one of the possibilities discussed at a forum about campus social life sponsored by Duke Student Government Tuesday night. Administrators, DSG officials, police officers and students met to discuss issues arising from the recent surge in off-campus partying and proposed various solutions to improve the social scene on campus.

Vice President for Student Affairs Larry Moneta, who helped lead the forum, said visible underage drinking was at the heart of the debate about the University's on-campus party scene.

"I am not trying to recreate a 1940s social life on campus," Moneta said. "But the rock admittedly is the underage drinking issue."

Students alleged that a harsh administrative stance about drinking on campus resulted from the death of student Raheem Bath in 1999.

Further, the subsequent dissolution of the Hideaway and some fraternity chapters, as well as the institution of the independent corridor, left students without on-campus social outlets.

Moneta acknowledged he was worried about the possibility of students dying of alcohol poisoning.

"We're scared to death. I'm scared to death," Moneta said. "The national social culture seems to place a remarkable importance on alcohol [consumption]."

Some students were concerned about possible criminal charges for having parties at their off-campus residences. Lt. Larry Isaacs of the Durham Police Department assured students that the local police were not out to get Duke students partying off campus.

"We don't go driving around off campus looking for parties," he said. "Ninety-five percent of our presence at a party is the result of a 911 complaint, which we have to respond to by law."

Senior Caroline Stouffer brought up the issue of how students who enjoy partying might be uninterested in the social and cultural alternatives supported by the administration, a sentiment echoed by many of the students present. Moneta said his primary responsibility was to provide students with social and cultural options but that greek life--and partying--could still flourish.

"Greek life is a very important part of the overall experience," Moneta said. "Ten years ago the greek community controlled Duke social life; recently I've told the greek world that their parties should be for their members. It just means smaller, more private parties." Duke University Union President Jonathan Bigelow also tackled the notion that social or cultural alternatives were options in lieu of greek life.

"We're not about creating alternatives to greek life," he said. "We're about providing supplemental activities. I'm not greek, but I realize that greek life is important to many people."

Some of those in attendance at the forum said they were pleased with the opportunity to have dialogue between students and the administration about the social options on campus.

Assistant Dean of Students of Greek Life Todd Adams said the forum was an excellent first step in finding ways and options for students to enjoy the social scene.

"Some solutions will not happen overnight, but ultimately we had to start the discussion somewhere and I'm glad DSG came to the table," Adams said. "These are some valid concerns about how to balance social life."

DSG Executive Vice President Cliff Davison agreed. "We need to codify our relationship to social life on campus and how we can go about that," he said. "This was an excellent way to begin that process."

Maj. B. J. Council of DPD said the meeting was even beneficial for her. "I thought it was a good meeting where I learned a lot of things, such as parties not being allowed on campus--that I didn't already know," she said.

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