Community needs to help UW-Stout address high-risk drinking

Few things are harder for a chancellor to address than the negative effects on our students of high-risk drinking. UW-Stout has developed several initiatives, led by efforts from our Dean of Students Sandi Scott and the Chancellor’s Coalition on Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse. 

I believe we have made an impact in this area and our efforts will continue, including the Knock and Talk event in the fall aimed at connecting with students who are of legal drinking age.

But we need community partners to help us, and that includes those who make their living off the sale of alcohol. As a Menomonie resident, I can attest that the great majority of those in the hospitality industry take their alcohol sale policy very seriously and act responsibly. However, that sadly is not the case with all establishments.

I recently was notified of one situation that I find particularly egregious and want to bring it to the campus’ attention. The night of April 12, officers from our University Police Department, the Menomonie Police Department and Dunn County Sheriff’s Department entered the Rehab bar, 631 S. Broadway St., on a tip of underage drinking activity. What they found was revolting: More than 50 citations were issued to people under age who were drinking in the bar.

I can’t tell you how disappointed I was when I learned of this. It is incomprehensible to me how responsible tavern owners could allow this to happen on their premises. It also calls into question the commitment of some of our community partners to ensuring that all applicable alcohol laws and ordinances are followed.

The university has a responsibility to help our students avoid high-risk drinking, along with illegal drug use. Our efforts are encapsulated in the 2017-18 High Risk Drinking/AOD Action Plan administered by the Dean of Students.

But no office or individual can do much in this area without the cooperation of the greater community, and that includes those who profit from the sale of alcohol. I certainly hope that what happened at the Rehab on April 12 serves as a wake-up call for that establishment and any others inclined to serve alcohol to minors.