SGA’s Party Smart hits web after shaky start

It’s no secret that some students drink, but now the UVM website is giving them tips on how to do it.The Party Smart campaign was officially launched November 18 2008, when the SGA added the webpage to the University website’s A-Z after a year of controversy surrounding how to best advise students on drinking safely.Party Smart offers non-drinking alternatives to having fun, SGA senator Julia Michel said, and if students do choose to drink alcohol, it offers some tips on how to drink safely — like drink water and eat before drinking, and have taxi numbers in your phone.Chris Shackett, former chair of SGA’s Committee on Legislative Action (CoLA), said that UVM students need to be more responsible with their drinking, citing an off-campus incident earlier this month where a UVM student allegedly raped a female student.”It’s been getting out of control,” Shackett said, expressing his concern that dry residency halls force students off campus where safety isn’t always the top concern.”The idea [behind Party Smart] is to acknowledge that students drink, and to encourage it to be done in a safe way,” Shackett said. He said the website has been lacking appeal since revisions done last year removed content and changed wording. “It’s dumbed down,” Shackett said. “Party Smart was supposed to be a website to the students by the students.”Two years ago, CoLA introduced the Party Smart Initiative bill to the SGA with the goal of creating a website that would improve relations between students and Burlington residents.When CoLA presented Party Smart to UVM’s community coalition, some issues arose after the SGA had already spent $1,500 on the construction of the webpage and the printing of 200 promotional T-shirts.Emma Kennedy, the SGA vice president at the time, refused to launch the site until all the offices listed on the webpage approved of the information.The Women’s Center and Health Promotion Services, both listed on the website, wouldn’t give their approval, saying the information wasn’t worded officially enough to represent the University.Diana Gonzalez from UVM’s Health Promotion Services was among the opposition to CoLA’s original Party Smart layout. She said that while “it’s a great idea,” she didn’t feel it was ready to go live.”My understanding of the SGA’s goals are of safety and responsibility,” Gonzalez said at the time of the meetings. “I think the website in its current formation doesn’t have the information supporting that goal.” She and others engaged in meetings with CoLA members to come to a compromise about how to best promote safety, without promoting underage drinking.”It’s a touchy subject because you are enabling students to break the law,” junior Julia Michel said.  “But this is a perfect opportunity for students to talk to other students, because this sort of information can’t come from the administration.”Mike Glynne, the current chair of CoLA, says he is considering rehashing Party Smart in the future to make it more aesthetically appealing.Glynne recently added Party Smart to the A-Z, making the page “really official,” saying there are tentative plans to make promotional Party Smart gift bags with T-shirts, snacks and soft drinks.There are also plans in the works to add a new dimension to Party Smart that would incorporate a community service aspect to the site for students who get in trouble, Glynne said.  “We want students and the Burlington community to get along,” Michel said.Party Smart isn’t meant to encourage underage drinking, Michel said. “Its focused on promoting safety and [SGA] hoped it would have a positive effect on the community.”