Over the years, Fresno State has had issues with students showing up to graduation intoxicated. This year, the school is planning to take action by promoting a safe celebration.
“Last May’s graduation there were seven individuals who were intoxicated, and the police department didn’t make any arrests. We just handed them over to responsible individuals,” said Amy Luna, manager of emergency operations and business continuity at the Fresno State Police Department.
In a study conducted by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, 1,825 college students between the ages of 18 and 24 die every year from alcohol-related causes.
This issue is nothing new to the community as this problem has been brought up by students in past years. Multiple approaches have been exercised in tackling this issue, yet students continue to show up to graduation intoxicated.
“During the ceremony, the people behind us were disruptive and made comments that were insensitive. It didn’t completely ruin the event, but it was annoying,” said James Montague, who graduated last year with a degree in English.
To combat the issue of students arriving drunk to graduation, Fresno State created several programs alongwith campus and comminuty members.
“The safe celebrating pledge is a pledge that says if you decide to use alcohol, you will do so safely,” said Dr. Kimberly Robertello, alcohol, tobacco and other drugs coordinator.
To combat these statistics, Robertello said Fresno State will be hosting a Bulldog Stadium Celebration. This event, which will take place on Thursday, May 12, from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m., offers free food and a safe place for graduates to celebrate.
“We have campus radio KFSR coming to DJ the event. We’re giving away prizes. Students will be able to take pictures with the mascot,” Robertello said. “We want to provide students an area that they don’t usually have access to and give them an alternative to celebrating with alcohol at a time when they might do that.”
Students who are interested in taking the safe graduation celebration pledge can go online to the Fresno State Student Health and Counseling Center’s website and sign up.
Bulldog Strong is another program Fresno State has begun. It partners with local businesses that sell alcohol to commit to ethical alcohol sales, Fresno State Police Chief David Huerta said.
It is an effort to promote safe alcohol consumption by Fresno State students and local businesses, so that future graduations are a more sober celebration.
So far, Robertello and Huerta have met with local businesses that serve alcohol at Campus Pointe, such as Mad Duck, the Beach Hut Deli, Wahoo’s Fish Tacos, Pieology and Dog House Grill. Within the next two to three months, they hope to contact every business that serves alcohol within a mile radius of campus.
“We would like to ask business owners that serve alcohol to partner with us to act in the best interest of the students,” Robertello said. “We realize that drinking isn’t something that will happen at one location, and one business isn’t necessarily to blame for any incidents we have on campus.”
Robertello and the chief have been meeting with surrounding businesses to help push the message of celebrating graduation responsibly and to educate students on doing so.
“I have already met with Kimberley and the chief. We are always in support of drinking responsibly and being an adult responsible for your actions,” said Matt Billingsley, the general manager of Dog House Grill.
In 2013, Dog House Grill canceled its pregraduation celebration in compliance to former vice presidents Paul Oliaro’s request that it do so, to ensure a flawless and safe ceremony.
This year, Dr. Frank Lamas, vice president for student affairs and enrollment management, stated in an email to students: “Drinking and misconduct by even a few would be disturbing to the graduates, faculty and guests who expect and deserve a safe, orderly and dignified ceremony.”
The decorum of the commencement expectations states that graduation ceremonies are drug and alcohol free events and have a zero-tolerance policy that will be enforced. Students who are intoxicated will not be allowed to participate in the ceremony and will be removed.
“What Kimberley and the chief are looking to do is make the point to young students that you can have a good time. You can do things you want to do. You just don’t need to make it a belligerent moment,” said Billingsley.
This year, Fresno State and businesses are taking a different approach to the issue. Instead of businesses closing down completely, the Bulldog Strong campaign seeks to educate students.
Dog House Grill will be open for graduates Friday and Saturday morning at 6 to 10 a.m., said Billingsley. He said it will be serving breakfast, along with drink specials both days.
He emphasized that the day is a family event where people come in to celebrate their achievements with the ones they love.