A UW campus chancellor takes on his school’s drinking culture. The story went national after UW Stout Chancellor Charles Sorensen sent a memo to students and staff outlining strong disciplinary actions for alcohol abuses. “We have to address this as a state, and in higher education,” says Sorenson.
The story appears to have gone viral after students on the Menomonie campus launched a critical Facebook page (with the word chancellor misspelled), but Sorenson’s taking that in stride: “it’s a very natural reaction, I think, to the memo.” Sorenson admits he was “shocked by the drinking culture” when he came to Wisconsin from Michigan, although he notes not ALL students create a problem. The school’s numbers indicate only twenty percent of Stout’s 8500 students drink regularly, and only a small percentage of that number abuse alcohol. Still, Sorenson says that’s enough to damage the school’s reputation.
Seven UW-Stout students have died in the past two years in drinking-related incidents including the suicide of an intoxicated student. Sorenson says he’s thinking of those families as he works to curb alcohol abuse at Stout. “We have had shattered families around here. The most recent death, their only son, died from an intoxicated driver. How do you tell a parent, ‘well, don’t worry about it, but we don’t want to do much because we don’t want to injure the feelings of other students on campus?” You can’t do that. That’s morally irresponsible.”
April is Alcohol Abuse Awareness month, and Sorensen says there’s no point in trying to mince words with students when it comes to drinking. “You cannot sugar coat this issue at all. They have to look at it realistically. They’re young adults, and we have to deal with it with every tool that we have.”
Bob Hague (1:08 MP3) AUDIO: Bob Hague reports (1:08 MP3)