Temple Times Online Edition
    APRIL 13, 2006
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Student Affairs’ late-night programming offers students alcohol-free weekend options

Photo by Ryan S. Brandenberg/University Photography
Partying into the early morning hours, this Temple student and many others are finding new ways to make their weekends more exciting and entertaining — without leaving the campus.

The enormous room was packed full with intense competitors, standing room only. As they gazed down intently, the tension was almost unbearable as they waited for their chance to scream.


The University’s Free Food and Fun Fridays is one of the new ways students are finding exciting and entertaining things to do on the weekend.

“What 21-year-old doesn’t want to play Bingo on a Friday night?” said junior Denesha James, a late-night Bingo veteran.

Alternatives to late-night parties are beginning to pop up on college campuses nationwide, and this year Temple joined the list with its new alcohol-free programs.

Every year, drinking by college students across the country causes significant numbers of injuries and deaths. A recent National Institute on Alcohol and Alcoholism report stated that “drinking by college students age 18 through 24 contributes to an estimated 1,400 student deaths, 500,000 injuries and 70,000 cases of sexual assault each year.”

Because the misuse of alcohol by students is such a significant impediment to academic and personal excellence, several years ago Temple and the Division of Student Affairs began searching for ways to create a safer, healthier environment both on and off campus after dark.

In the fall of 2004, Vice President of Student Affairs Theresa A. Powell initiated the University’s largest and most comprehensive response, the Alcohol Task Force, which is made up of faculty, staff and students.

In a 2005 survey conducted by the Tuttleman Counseling Center, 43 percent of Temple students reported binge drinking in the two weeks before the study, slightly below than the national average of 49 percent. Binge drinking was defined as consuming more than five drinks in one sitting. Although Temple finds itself below the national average, any amount of alcohol abuse is too much, Powell said.

So, to cut down the numbers even further, Student Affairs began offering students the opportunity to enjoy concerts, card games and video games from 10 p.m. to 2 a.m. on Friday and Saturday nights starting last semester.

Maureen Fisher, program coordinator of late-night programming, said these events were developed by the Student Activities staff specifically as an alternative to alcohol-related activities on weekends. They complement other alcohol-free activities on campus such as sports, residence hall activities and music and theatrical productions.

The Friday night activities alternate between four games that are rotated every week in the atrium of the Student Center. The games are Texas Hold ’em, spades, the football video game Madden NFL 2005 and the crowd favorite — Bingo.

Photo by Ryan S. Brandenberg/University Photography
These students share a few laughs and friendly competition during a recent Free Food and Fun Friday Texas Hold ’em tournament.

“At any given time on Friday night, there are as many as 200 to 250 people coming in and out of the Student Center,” Fisher said. “Our most popular night is definitely Bingo but we also get a huge turnout for the Texas Hold ’em tournaments.”

Fisher said that another reason crowds are drawn to the Student Center is because it really does pay to play.

During the night, the Student Activities staff draw raffle tickets and hand out prizes including gift certificates for iTunes, the student bookstore and local restaurants. Diamond Dollars are one of the most popular prizes among students, who are able to use the currency like cash at various locations around campus.

While Free Food and Fun Fridays prove successful from the very beginning, the Underground — a newly opened nightclub in the basement of the Student Center — is picking up momentum.

In order to draw bigger crowds, Fisher started asking student organizations to co-sponsor the weekly events. The organizations have the option to use the Underground as a venue to hold concerts, poetry readings or open mic nights similar to those found in a “coffee shop” atmosphere, and they can book the types of talent they want.

“Last semester, the Underground wasn’t being used for Saturday night events, but in recent months it has really gained popularity,” Fisher revealed. “With the help of the student organizations, we have had times when we have had over 400 people come to the event.”

Because the venue is located right on campus, the Underground also acts as a great place for student talent to shine.

“People who are interested in performing at the Underground are asked to sign up, drop off a demo for us to listen to and wait for a call back,” Fisher said. “We have never had a problem finding student bands willing to play. In fact, we have had to make a waiting list.”

Student Activities isn’t the only Student Affairs department getting involved in the late-night fun Recreation Services is also hosting some after-dark events at the IBC Student Recreation Center and Student Pavillion. For many of the activities, ranging from card games to table tennis, you don’t even have to break a sweat to have fun.

“We increased our activities at night this year to offer an option for students who don’t want to go out and party,” said Steve Young, director of Recreation Services. “The alcohol task force approached us about holding events last year after they presented their findings, and we thought that would be a great idea. Now we hold card games and offer [sports] tournaments that go on after dark.”

At the end of the spring semester, Powell and the rest of the Student Activities personnel plan to evaluate the relationship among college students’ participation in the alcohol-free alternative activities and the actual alcohol abuse incidents reported on campus. It will also look at the overall satisfaction with the program to see what worked and what didn’t.

- By Karen Shuey