With Oktoberfest less than a week away, La Crosse’s three college campuses are teaming up to combat binge drinking.
Safe La Crosse is an initiative UW-La Crosse, Viterbo University and Western Technical College have participated in for the past several years. It’s an effort to curb dangerous drinking habits and reduce the number of alcohol-related injuries. The initiative offers safety programs like Operation River Watch, which keeps people out of Riverside Park at night. It also offers entertainment options on each campus that act as alternatives to downtown drinking.
"La Crosse has a unique culture, and alcohol isn't seen as a taboo,” said Ge Vang, Student Activities Coordinator at Western Tech. “We’re trying to challenge that culture through education, and we’re hoping students will respond to that.”
The effort focuses on educating students about the dangers of binge drinking and offering alternative events to downtown drinking, like Viterbo's "VU After Dark," which features free movie nights and other entertainment to keep kids on campus and off La Crosse's downtown streets.
Vang said while the effort to talk to students about responsible drinking can be a tough one, the initiative’s goal appears to be getting through.
“We feel like it's a message that's resonating,” Vang said. “We feel [students are] looking out for one another and they do care.”
Student governments are getting more involved this year, too, according to Matt Krueger, student body president at Viterbo. He said having students lead the initiative can help make the message resonate better with their own peers.
“The student leadership of all three schools coming together and really taking a stand against binge drinking, it’s great,” Krueger said. “I really hope students would take a step back, listen, and hopefully change their lifestyle a little bit.”