The Relliner Report: Chancellor Sorensen is (not) the Devil

Image courtesy of ©Talk to FRANK

Chancellor Sorensen has been making some changes to UW-Stout.  The changes I hear college students ranting about the most are his fairly strict new campus regulations on alcohol use.  Just in case you live under a rock, I’ll give you a short explanation of what he’s been doing.

Chancellor Sorensen has been trying to reduce alcohol abuse among UW-Stout students using various strategies, including implementing more friday classes to try and reduce “Thirsty Thursday” drinking, collaborating with city police to monitor house parties more closely, holding landlords more accountable in areas where problem drinking occurs, requiring keg registration, and convincing local bars to offer less drink specials, among a few other things.

The reaction from some students on these new policies has been horrendous.  There are plenty of students in support of the Chancellor’s efforts, but there is a good number of students who are furiously against Sorensen.  And they are doing nothing but complaining and making the entire campus look foolish.

When students got angry about the alcohol ban, naturally they went straight to Facebook and created a group titled “Who Is the chancelor trying to kid? This is Stout!!!”  I’m choosing not to use the misspelling of “chancellor” in the title to judge the founder’s intelligence (or state of intoxication), but when I read only “The new drinking rules are bullsh*t” in the description, I find it extremely hard to believe this person has any real argument for his/her cause at all.  We are in college and this page is filled with posts from college students who seem to be unable to write a gramatically correct sentence, much less express their opinion in a respectable manner.  The media has cited this Facebook group in news stories.  Imagine the impression these students are making on readers, and on behalf of the entire UW-Stout campus.  Look, if you have a problem, do something about it. Something meaningful. Appeal to the student senate, or start a petition.  Don’t go to Facebook and rage about it in broken english.  That won’t solve anything.

Some people don’t seem to have the capacity to realize what Sorensen is trying to do.  If you think he’s just some old codger on a power trip trying to take away your God-given right to drink yourself into an idiotic stupor because he doesn’t understand the young people, you’re being too myopic.  You need to see the end result he has in mind, and it’s going to take time.  Since he’s been in office UW-Stout has risen from the unrated “third tier” category to the prestigious Tier 1 in the midwest in the annual rankings of US News and World Report (Best Colleges 2011, 2010). This means we are now one of the best schools academically in the midwest right now, ranked 66th.  That’s quite an honor.  Don’t you think the Chancellor’s interests lie in changing Stout for the better?  He’s seen the recent student deaths (an unfortunate number) and noticed a factor involved:  Alcohol.  He’s seen the unbelievable rates of binge drinking and related accidents and arrests.  He knows what students on other campuses say about our problem drinking and, consequently, the quality of our school.  Being a leader for this institution, he feels that it’s his responsibility to do something about it.  I would do the same in his shoes.  Is he going about it in the best possible way?  Probably not, but at least he’s making an effort.  So you might have to take classes on Friday.  Who cares?  You’re here to take classes anyway, right?  I’ve never had a Friday off, and I’m still alive.  So you can’t get hammered on school property, and the cops may be a bit more strict with you if they find you passed out in a puddle of your own vomit at a house party.  There’s an easy solution to all of it:  Don’t be stupid.

Good student conduct leads to a better reputation for the school and its students.  Remember, you’re in college.  You’re here primarily to become a more educated individual so people will hire you for a nice position with a great salary.  Partying is secondary.  Have fun, tie a few on every now and then, but be an adult about it.  Drink responsibly.  That’s really all Sorensen wants you to do.  The University and its future students will thank you.


US News and World Report. (2010).  [List of best colleges for 2011 by US region, interactive selection].  Best Colleges 2011. Retrieved from http://colleges.usnews.rankingsandreviews.com/best-colleges/bacc

A couple of news stories about the alcohol ban at UW-Stout:

Opinions mixed on UW-Stout’s alcohol crackdown

- UW-Stout accounces crackdown on underage drinking


About Relliner

Relliner is a Psychology student at UW-Stout. He writes and edits for both Pepper Magazine and Whereispepper.com. He loves art and science, and often can't make a distinction between the two.

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  1. Amazing article Aaron!

  2. Cooper Beijo Whitesc on October 12th, 2010 at 9:45 am   
  3. Thank you :)

  4. Aaron Relliner on October 12th, 2010 at 9:48 am   
  5. I wonder if the Chancellor considered another angle of attack on the issue: raising Stout's entrance requirements. Take the kids that are interested in bettering themselves through education, and leave out the kids who come only for the heavy drinking. There would still be parties, but a smaller percentage of those party-goers will be absolute idiots.

  6. Justin Cameron on October 12th, 2010 at 2:11 pm   
  7. I quite enjoy this and finally got around to reading the whole thing.

    I agree that there are way too many students that complain about each and every policy (to 'do' something about it) when actually acting on it may make a change rather than blowing off mindless steam (cannot say I have never done that) and accomplishing nothing other than increasing your ego points.

    We need a student body that cares and will put forth effort to change policies if they deem them wrong and a student body that learns to be responsible for their own actions before they go judging everyone else.

  8. Jonathan D. Sollie on October 13th, 2010 at 7:45 pm   
  9. I agree completely on the reflection of the way stupid kids act to the image of the entire student body here at Stout. No one here wants to come out of a school that is know for being a complete party house especially when it comes to interviewing for that first job. And you also put in a great point on how people complain about things but don't do anything meaningful to make something happen. Once again, reflecting the great effort that some of these kids put into their lives outside of the keg party.

    It was a great read, Aaron. Nice work.

  10. Jesse Lindhorst on October 14th, 2010 at 2:30 am   
  11. Thanks guys.

    Justin – Are you sure raising the entrance requirements would be a good thing for our school? Take a look at this:


    You may need to log in to the University Library web site and re-enter the URL if it doesn't work initially. Start on page 14, and read the section titled "Completing the Evaluation Project." It's essentially the results section of the famous Eight Year Study. You can read the entire thing if you like, but a short summary of the study is easier, no? What the researchers were wondering was how effective the traditional college education format was for the students' academic development. Back in the 1930's, when the study was performed, colleges were still rigid and strict with their entrance requirements and teaching format. The researchers convinced 300 schools to waive their traditional format (including entrance requirements) for students in the study, and those students were compared with the "traditional" ones throughout their academic progress. The students that were part of the "progressive" curriculum turned out to be more inquisitive, more ambitious, and also earned higher grades. These are students that did not meet the regular requirements for college enrollment. When they were given the chance to enroll, they flourished into outstanding students.

    That sounds a lot like Stout, to me. I admit that I did not do well in high school. I was in my senior year when I finally grew conscious of my record, and by then not even scoring a 4.1 GPA in my senior year was enough to help me. It's not that I wasn't smart. Rather, I was just a teenager rebelling against his homework because I couldn't see the point of it all. UW-Stout was one of the few colleges that would take me, and now I consider myself to be an outstanding and ambitious student; a complete turn-around from what I was in high school. I know plenty of others who share my story. I can't even imagine where I would be now if Stout hadn't accepted me.

    Raising entrance requirements would convey to other schools that we only take the bright and ambitious, and it would undoubtedly weed out those students who wish to live the college lifestyle without the college. Those are both good things. However, I fear that many bright young students with less-than-perfect records would be robbed of a chance to develop themselves academically.

    Plus, I think it's a more noble endeavor to try and shape our problematic students into healthier and more mature individuals, rather than simply turning them away.

  12. Relliner on October 14th, 2010 at 5:22 am   
  13. Aaron- I couldn't get to the study you were referencing, but I have experienced this situation first hand. I think my study habits in high school were opposite of yours. I rocked my honors courses as an underclassman but slid through the rest until graduation. My GPA was still good enough to get into the U of M but they declined my application on account of the senior slide. It was a good lesson for me to learn as hard as it was. I chose to enroll in a local community college with the intention of rebuilding my academic record and study habits. Being "left behind" my peers in my hometown after high school helped me focus on my school work. Also, the academic mistakes that I made in the process were more affordable. I was able to eventually transfer into the University of Minnesota system, make the Dean's List as well and win a scholarship. It is not the end of one's studies if they are not accepted into a four year university right away, but it does mean that one needs to take an alternate route. I do not have a scientific study to point to in proving my point, because I have no need for a secondary source. My primary source is my personal experience, that being: one only needs to be perceptive, thoughtful, curious and (most importantly) committed in order to navigate one's unique path to a respectable four-year university. The Stoutie rejects will be fine. They will just have to go to a different proving ground before they can join the rest of us.

  14. Justin Cameron on October 17th, 2010 at 8:23 am   
  15. Justin,

    True, there are other ways of picking oneself up from a bad academic record, and no, you don't need any scientific studies to prove your point (actually, I would be surprised if you could find any on your argument). You're right. Students in this country are given more than enough chances to gain a degree if they wish, and there are more than enough ways to go about it.

    Still, I have my doubts. I had left out a point in my earlier reply that questioned the actual perceived effect of raising entrance requirements on alcohol abuse. I don't believe either of us know whether our "problem drinkers" are bad students or simply good, studious kids who accidentally take it too far when they go out for a good time. I'm willing to wager that it's a bit of both. We don't know if in phasing out academically deficient students, we would necessarily be phasing out problem drinker students. I happen to know a few colleagues personally (their names shall be omitted for the sake of anonymity) who could easily be defined as both heavy drinkers and fantastic students. I don't believe the Chancellor's aim is to bar any promising students from our school, because–let's face it–they all show promise. The very act of applying to college shows promise. He can see that, I think.

  16. Relliner on October 18th, 2010 at 5:04 am   
  17. I wish to convey another point.

    There is a problem I believe Sorensen is trying to correct which I touched on very briefly in my original post. I wish to expand on it now: The image of UW-Stout. He doesn't want Stout and its students to be associated with alcoholism. Nobody wants that. I'm afraid his plan has backfired somewhat due to all of the media attention it has attracted, but I repeat my earlier statement: At least he's attempting to make a change. I have a feeling his coalition will be changing its approach in the coming months (or years) so as to become more effective, but the goal will remain the same: encouraging smart and healthy student behavior.

    The coalition’s mission statement is right here:

    "Safe and healthy learning environment?" "Responsible and legal choices?" There is no evil or injustice to be found here. I wonder how many students have seen this page. One cannot help but think their outlook might change if they took the time to read up on actual information sources, instead of listening to their peers, who are (probably) equally uninformed. The reason the media attention is causing a backfire in Sorensen's plan is because he failed to realize that many students wouldn't understand it, and people tend to fear and reject a change they don't understand. As a consequence, rather than watching a hopeful school take a new step to improve itself, news viewers are seeing images of angry students who feel as though their rights are being taken away. They see Facebook groups filled with young and promising people who would rather post a complaint while browsing the internet than try to make a change.

    In my opinion, the student outcry against Sorensen more closely resembles an adolescent rebellion than the civil rights argument people claim it to be.

  18. Relliner on October 18th, 2010 at 5:05 am   
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