As university students, many of us have had friends go a little too wild on a night out. The University of Guelph's solution is a student drunk tank — and it's worth considering.
First introduced in 2016, Guelph offers students a campus alcohol recovery room, called CARR: a six-bed space equipped with vomit buckets that can be found in a campus residence building. It is a safe, confidential and judgement-free space where students who have had too much to drink can sign out a cot for the night. A group of trained volunteers run CARR, sometimes called the “drunk tank,” and check on students every 30 to 40 minutes to see if they need medical attention. Last semester, a total of 51 intoxicated students used the space.
Ultimately, the program is a great service for a few reasons. Research by the National College Health Assessment suggests more than one third of Canadian postsecondary students admitted to binge drinking in the previous two weeks. With binge drinking being as prevalent as it is at universities, it's smart to acknowledge it rather than ignore it. It allows students to take personal responsibility while also providing a good option for students who don't know what to do with overly-intoxicated friends — we've all been there. This is a safe, proactive solution.
Furthermore, a campus alcohol recovery room could also provide an opportunity for students looking to get more medical experience. With Student Emergency Response Team job opportunities in high demand, this program would provide nursing or medical sciences students with practical experience. With SERT's infrastructure already in place, the student response team could even expand their services to include a campus alcohol recovery room.
Of course, there are some obstacles: funding, for example. Additionally, the stigma behind going to the campus “drunk tank” could cause students to avoid it altogether, as unfortunate as that is. If this was enacted, it should follow the structure of safe injection sites, which provide anonymity to users. If students are voluntarily going to take advantage of programs like CARR, then it must really be a judgement-free facility so that students are willing to go there on their own accord.
You could also argue that the solution is for students to drink less. But until that happens, a campus alcohol recovery room is worth considering, especially during events like Homecoming, Fake Homecoming or St. Patrick's Day.
The bottom line is that programs like CARR provide students with support and safety as they navigate university life. Even though it might not be for everyone, the program could be a great option for students who don't have much experience with drinking and who might feel distressed in new — sometimes dangerous — situations.
Implementing a program similar to CARR would be a net positive for Western. It would show their commitment to student safety and benefit the student body in the long run. Western's all about the best student experience, right?