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PSC takes new look at student drinking

Posted on: Friday, June 8, 2007

SARANAC LAKE (AP) — Citing the alcohol-related deaths of five young people at Paul Smith’s College over the past three school years, college officials said they’ll work with the state to ban alcohol on parts of the school’s sprawling Adirondack property.

The college and the Franklin County District Attorney’s Office plan to set up a meeting with state officials to discuss prohibiting the use of alcohol in some areas, college spokesman Ken Aaron said Thursday.

The Department of Environmental Conservation, which oversees recreation on most of the 14,200-acre campus, will be included in the talks, Aaron said. Paul Smith’s College has easements to about 10,000 acres of DEC-owned land. The college is asking DEC to consider outlawing the use of alcohol on that land, Aaron said.

“It’s not up to us; if it were we’d just flip the switch,” Aaron said. “We are not becoming a dry campus.”

“We also plan to have a DEC representative speak to students about outdoor recreation safety at this summer’s orientation,” he said.

The school’s actions follow the drownings of two students last month, and three deaths before that.

Sean Cornell, 20, and Lee Walker, 18, died when their canoes overturned late at night just off shore from the campus. State police said drinking alcohol contributed to their deaths. In February 2005, Quinnipiac University student Kristine Guest, 20, and Paul Smith’s student Josh Rau, 20, died when their snowmobile crashed on campus land. Rau had a blood alcohol level of 0.14 at the time. Another student, Stephen Welch, 19, died in January 2005 in an alcohol-related car crash near campus.

Guest’s father, Stephen Guest of West Hartford, Conn., sued the school last year, claiming that the failure of the college to properly enforce alcohol policies led to the wrongful death of his daughter.

‘‘One tragedy is one tragedy too many,’’ said Aaron. ‘‘We want nothing more than to try to prevent these things from occurring.’’

Enterprise Staff Writer Rebecca Steffan contributed to this report
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In loving Memory of Kristine Guest