U of Calgary give students space to sober up

The University of Calgary (U of C) is giving students a safe space to sober up after having too much to drink called the Post Alcohol Support Space (PASS).

The PASS is not something completely new as universities like University of Guelph and Queen’s University already have similar programs. 

According to Debbie Bruckner, the senior director of student wellness at the U of C, the idea is to reduce harm from excessive drinking as a part of the ​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​Postsecondary Education Partnership-Alcohol Harms (PEP-AH), which started after an Acadia University student died from alcohol poisoning. 

The repurposed residence space will have six beds, water, first-aid equipment and a nurse on hand to monitor the students.

“We know students report having done things they later regretted following the use of alcohol,” Bruckner said. “And then we also [see] campus security reporting a lot of transports to hospitals due to alcohol consumption.”

There were 35 of these transports at the U of C last year.

The space is currently a pilot project which will run from Jan. 25 until the end of the winter semester in April. The space will only be open on Thursdays—the U of C’s most popular drinking night according to Bruckner—and on special occasions, from 10 p.m to 6 a.m.

Last year, concerns of alcohol abuse by students at the University of Moncton prompted the university to develop its first alcohol policy which required events where alcohol is served to abide by New Brunswick’s Liquor Control Act, according to the CBC.

In 2016, the Canadian Consortium of the American College Health Association conducted a survey of 43,780 students from 41 Canadian campuses, and identified that binge drinking is becoming more prevalent, bringing with it associated harms, according to the PEP-AH website.

In regards to binge drinking, 36.7 per cent of respondents reported drinking five or more drinks the last time they were at a party.

Kristine Hubenig, a second-year archeology student at the U of C, said while she only drinks on special occasions like Halloween and New Year’s Eve, she knows other students who might use the space.

She said they call Thursdays, ‘ThursDen,’ after the name of the on-campus pub, the Den and Black Lounge. This is similar to Carleton University’s ‘Thirsty Thursdays’ at Oliver’s Pub, making some students say Carleton should open a similar space.

David Jorgenson, a second-year psychology student at Carleton, said it sounds like a good spinoff on a typical drunk tank.

“I know people who have done some pretty stupid stuff, so it’s a good idea, especially with the medical assistance,” he said.

But Jorgenson said Carleton should be careful to implement the program properly, if they do.

“There should be a certain level of intoxication—like it shouldn’t just be used by someone looking for a place to crash,” he said. 

Jorgenson also said he would be unlikely to use a space like the PASS.

However, he said if he saw someone overly intoxicated on campus, he would bring them to the space. 

“If they’re going to get the same treatment as at the hospital, why fill up hospital space?” he said. 

Regardless of use, Bruckner said it’s never a bad idea to be safe.

“I don’t think [U of C students] drink more than any other university,” Bruckner said. “I wouldn’t say there are any cons [to a space like this], so it’s definitely a consideration for other universities to adopt.”

When asked if Carleton would consider following suit, Zameer Masjedee, the Carleton University Students’ Association president, said it’s an interesting idea.

“I would never just say no right off the bat,” he said. “I think it definitely requires more research and more student consultation.”

However, he said there could be potential problems such as students falling asleep in the room because they’re intoxicated.

“But I think it does start a conversation around, ‘hey are students able to safely get back home after being intoxicated and in some cases too intoxicated?’ and if that’s the conversation that’s starting, then I think it’s a good one because it allows us to sort of account for that and offer other additional resources to better deal with it,” Masjedee said.

Photo by Meagan Casalino