Wednesday, October 5, 2011

A"teachable moment" and our hearts go out to Norwich University

Last evening, during our Student Association meeting, I spoke with all of our student leaders about the tragedy over the weekend at Norwich University. On Saturday night, after leaving an off-campus party, a first year Norwich University student was killed when the car she was riding in went off the road and crashed into some trees. This 18 year old from Michigan lost her very young life while riding in a car with 7 others, none of whom reportedly were wearing seat belts and the car was designed for 5, not 8. The 22 year old driver of the car was arrested and has been charged with driving under the influence with death resulting AND the 20 year old who "hosted" the off-campus party also was arrested. Three others in the car were reported to be in critical condition.

One life lost - seven lives which will be full of horrific memories of that night - two young men who have been arrested and whose lives will NEVER be the same. They had been celebrating - having fun - enjoying Norwich's football team victory and Norwich's Homecoming Weekend festivities. None of them went out that Saturday night ever thinking that what happened WOULD happen. Vermont has something called a Dram Shop Law which holds responsible, those who host gatherings where tragic events result from the consumption of alcohol. That can be in a residence hall room, a Townhouse, an off-campus home OR even my own home. MOST students have no idea that they can be held liable for the actions of someone who leaves their "party" if that person is intoxicated. My attempt last night was to remind students that they ARE vulnerable - that they CAN make bad decisions (getting in a car when the driver has had too much to drink) - that there ARE consequences to their decisions and that YES, it CAN HAPPEN TO YOU. It was a sobering talk but one that I felt I had to deliver to our students.

Earlier on Saturday, SMC had hosted the Vermont Colleges' Women's and Men's Cross Country Championships. It was a very cold and very windy day and many of us who volunteered to help were cold and soaked right through BUT we did it to help out. Norwich University, along with many, many other colleges/universities sent their students to compete and when I heard the sad news on Sunday morning of the tragic death of the young woman, I couldn't help but wonder if any of the cross country runners from Norwich, whom we had all cheered on as they completed either a 5K (women) or an 8K (men) race that afternoon had been in that car OR at that party. The reality is that this tragedy could happen at any of our colleges. Mike Samara is our Vice President for Student Affairs and our Dean of Students - Mike is a very, very good man and he has always talked about "teachable moments" - our hearts and prayers go out to all of the members of the Norwich University community and their tragedy will hopefully be one of OUR "teachable moments."

We want students to have a good time - that is just ONE of the things that being young is all about. We also, as I told our students last night, want them to PROTECT YOURSELF BY MAKING WISE DECISIONS.

Take care, be well and, as always, keep the members of our military, our veterans and their families in your thoughts and prayers AND please keep the members of the Norwich University community in your thoughts and prayers too.


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