Dangerous drinking

Recent events put alcohol consumption in Ferris’ spotlight

College ingenuity has turned a plastic cup, a ping pong ball and a hard surface into a collegiate national past time.

Whether there is an occasion worth celebrating or an uneventful Thursday night, some students have chosen to pass the bottle in order to pass the time. It’s not all fun and games though, and sometimes drinking results in dangerous situations.

Ferris freshman Nick Suttles, who attended an off-campus party Feb. 14, shocked Big Rapids when he was found the following morning in a snow bank along Division Street without a winter jacket, wearing only jeans and a T-shirt. Having been in the snow for an approximated five hours, he was rushed to a Grand Rapids hospital for urgent treatment.

The Big Rapids Department of Public Safety is leading an investigation of the night’s events with Ferris Department of Public Safety taking a supplementary role, according to Captain Jim Cook, Ferris DPS interim director.

Briena Bushong, Ferris freshman in social work, is a friend of Suttles, and attended the off-campus party he was at.
“I have seen a lot of people fall into alcoholism. They stop going to classes or go to classes drunk. They think it’s not a big deal until something like this happens,” Bushong said.

According to Bushong, Nick’s character and kind demeanor made it easy to strike a kinship.

“If I was upset about something, Nick would be in my room in about two minutes,” Bushong said.

Following the incident, she has re-evaluated her own decision making processes regarding alcohol use. In addition, Bushong has changed her major from criminal justice to social work with a focus on drug and alcohol use in adolescence as a result.

Education on the effects of alcohol is done throughout campus in residence halls in a concerted effort to curb the likelihood of abuse. Ferris continues to use Fatal Vision Goggles, education in FSU Seminar classes and a mock drunk driving accident to hammer the point home, according to the 2011-12 Biennial Review.

“Sometimes you can over-educate people if they have the goggles on and ride a bike through the obstacle course and they do it OK. In the back of their minds they might be thinking, ‘I can do this,’” Cook said.

Almost 38 percent of responses in the Biennial Review indicated that a student forgot where they were or what they were doing in a year’s time, which is 8 percent higher than the national average, according to the review.

“Your past performance can usually be a predictor of future behavior,” Director of Big Rapids DPS and Ferris graduate Andrea Nerbonne said.

Nerbonne, whose officers handed out 15 minor in possession citations in February, has had an opportunity to shut down an un-named Ferris fraternity due to alcohol-related concerns. The Padlock Law is a local ordinance which gives DPS the authority to close a place of residence if three or more violations occur within a school year.

The fraternity in question received four violations in a year’s span.

Nerbonne chose not to do so after meeting with the national president of the fraternity. She claimed that the meeting was beneficial, and her officers have not responded to the residence since last November.

Students and community members alike are hopeful that this recent incident involving the Ferris freshman sheds light on the negative consequences of alcohol abuse and encourages students to dissect their own actions.

“I completely quit drinking and do not plan on it anytime soon; it opened my eyes. I wish I didn’t need an eye opener, but I can say that it helped me and some of Nick’s friends see the dangers of drinking,”
Bushong said.