By Alexa Fults
Last month, posters displaying the title “A Candid Conversation on Sewanee’s Party Culture” adorned every bulletin board and doorway from Stirling’s Coffee House to the University Quad, advertising a panel hosted by the Community Engagement House on the evening of Tuesday, September 18.
Located on Alabama Avenue, the “CoHo,” as it is affectionately referred to around campus, wanted to offer a safe and welcoming space for students, especially new first-year students, to ask questions of their senior peers regarding issues arising from Sewanee’s party culture.
The CoHo opened its doors around 7 p.m., expecting only first-year students and house members to attend, but instead found themselves welcoming all members of the student body, as well as faculty, staff, and other community members. The panel consisted of the CoHo residents, with Lala Hilizah (C’21) mediating the discussion using a list of pre-selected questions.
However, advice began pouring in from all who were present. Sophomores, juniors, and seniors shared stories of times when they felt scared walking home at night or of times when they were there to help a friend who had a few too many shots.
Senior panelist and resident of the CoHo Abbie Warr (C’19) recalled a situation in which she had placed a backpack on her friend’s back as she was putting her to bed after an eventful evening so as to prevent the friend from rolling over onto their back and choking on their own vomit.
Among those present from the faculty was Dr. Robert Bachman, a member of the chemistry department and Director of Finding Your Place, a first year program for incoming students. He offered a token of advice from his own college experience on navigating the somewhat awkward interaction that can occur when someone offers you a drink at a party and you don’t plan on drinking: “Before going out, pour some water, juice, soda, etc. in a cup or bottle; no one will know the difference.”
Bachman also reminded the audience of the devastating reality of excessive drinking by sharing a story from his son’s college experience. “I received an email from the president of my son’s college during his first year to inform all parents of his class that one of his classmates had died from a drinking accident. It was so emotional to even consider whether it could have been my son.”
In addition, he urged students to always call for official help, be it police or any other emergency service, if they are unsure as to whether a person might be suffering from alcohol poisoning or any other alcohol-related issues. His words echo the advice of Associate Dean of Student Life Becky Spurlock, who always says, “If you are questioning whether or not to call, you need to call.”
The CoHo’s Candid Convo event offered everyone in the Sewanee community a safe and open environment for discussion and a thought-provoking moment to reflect on the importance of dwelling together in unity.