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Tragedy for Norwich Family

By Richard Schneider
On October 5, 2011

Early Sunday morning the Norwich family received a devastating blow with the tragic death of freshman Renee Robbins, from Kentwood, Mich. Renee was killed returning from a party in Northfield when the car in which she was a passenger crashed. It was determined that alcohol played a role in the accident. We concluded a weekend of celebrating our alumni who have graduated and gone on to successful lives and careers, by mourning the loss of a young student with so much potential.

In addition to Renee's death, four other students who were in the vehicle remain hospitalized, three in critical condition. A bad decision by an intoxicated person to get behind the wheel of the car has forever changed the lives of many individuals.

I would like to thank the Northfield Police Department, the Northfield EMTs and the other first responders on the scene for their professional and compassionate assistance. I would also like to thank the staffs at Central Vermont Medical Center, Fletcher Allen Hospital, and Gifford Medical Center for treatment of our students.

This was a tragedy that did not have to happen. The dangers of drinking and driving are well documented. Yet we, as a society, continue to ignore this message.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), in 2009 in the United States (the latest figures available) an estimated 10,839 people died in alcohol-impaired driving crashes; 32 percent of all traffic deaths.  

Laws have been created to try to prevent driving while intoxicated, but ultimately people are accountable for their own actions. As Norwich students you are adults now, and it is time to make responsible decisions.

It is natural for college students to want to relieve stress with a party. For many freshman students this is the first time out on their own with many new freedoms. It is easy in this situation to make bad decisions. However, the law states that you must be 21 years old to purchase, possess or consume alcohol. In addition to getting in trouble with the law, underage drinking can result in a violation of the university alcohol policy and jeopardize your career at Norwich.

Students who feel they may have a problem with alcohol can seek help on campus. Norwich's Office of Substance Abuse Education/Prevention provides a full-time licensed alcohol and drug counselor who is available during "office" and evening hours for students experiencing difficulties. The office is responsible for the Norwich Alcohol Awareness Program, which offers alcohol/drug information and personal sessions for students who violate the campus drug/alcohol policy. The university also provides various programs aimed at teaching students how to avoid drug/alcohol dependency.

There are students who will still decide to abuse alcohol, and who may at some point find themselves in a position where they should not drive.

We cannot bring Renee back, but we can use the lesson learned from this tragedy to help control our actions in the future. If you drink too much, do not compound the problem by trying to drive. Call Safe Rides (485-2905) – a program at Norwich that offers free and anonymous rides to any student needing to get back to campus. (Safe Rides is currently in a reconstruction phase. If you are interested in being a part of this valuable service call Gail Mears at 485-2689.) To find out if Safe Rides is running contact the info desk at WCC.

If you do not call Safe Rides, give your keys to a friend, or make other arrangements to get home. And if you see friends who should not be driving, give them a ride or help make arrangements for their safe return.

Think about the consequences of your actions. Make smart decisions, and look out for each other. It is the Norwich way.

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