By Kimberly Uslin
Elm Staff Writer
The Office of Student Activities held the first installment of the newly implemented Food For Thought speaker series. The speaker was Ruthie Alcaide, a cast member of MTV’s Real World: Hawaii, who spoke to students about such topics as binge drinking, drunk driving, and rape.
“The Food for Thought series is a program designed to encourage open mindedness and the exchange of ideas and thought processes on a variety of topics from alcohol and substance abuse to social justice, racism, and other issues,” said Emmanuel Lalande, the director of student activites.
In beginning the series, Lalande hopes to integrate intellectual discussion with the traditionally social activities offered through the OSA.
The Food For Thought speaker series is meant to cover topics that are particularly pertinent to Washington College students, promoting awareness and discussion of the issues facing students in everyday life.
“It’s important for us to start talking about issues so that we can educate ourselves and be aware of what’s going on,” said Lalande. “We want to find out ways that we can fix issues, if they can be fixed. It’s important to be aware, to speak freely, and to be open about different topics. In these discussions, students do not have to be afraid about being right or wrong.”
The OSA believes that in attending the Food For Thought series, students will develop an appreciation for diverse perspectives, experience increased awareness of social issues, expand knowledge and understanding of themselves and the world, and have a reinforced sense of belonging to the broader community.
Lalande does not want the speaker series to follow a conventional structure. He chose Ruthie Alcaide as a speaker because he felt she was “a little edgy and controversial, but still had a strong message to share.”
The Real World star, who was kicked out of the MTV house due to her rampant alcohol abuse, was someone who would pique the interest of students but who also could share important insight on the negative effects of alcohol in her life.
Ruthie Alcaide’s well-attended talk was held in the Student Center Lounge where plenty of food and drink was provided to students.
The funny and relaxed MTV star candidly shared her experiences of growing up in a home where issues such as alcohol and sexuality were not discussed and her subsequent lack of understanding of the effects of alcohol. She stressed the importance of knowing one’s limits, which is something that was a major problem for her both at Rutgers University and on the Real World. This was exemplified by a clip from the series, in which Ruthie and her castmates were shown abusing alcohol, with the abuse resulting in everything from arrest to Alcaide’s own hospitalization due to alcohol poisoning.
“I was completely out of control,” said Alcaide.
She shared shocking stories of her experiences with drunk driving and sexual assault situations. While she did not tell WC students to cease drinking altogether, she emphasized the importance of being safe and making good decisions. “Have a good head on your shoulders,” she advised. “Follow your instincts. You know what’s right,” said Alcaide.
Alcaide, who began speaking at college campuses shortly after the airing of Real World: Hawaii, hopes that her message will raise awareness of the problematic effects alcohol can have on students, but also seeks to deliver a broader message:
“It’s not just about alcohol it’s about life. I only speak from my experiences, but I hope there’s someone in the audience who will learn from them and begin to act in a safer way,” said Alcaide.
The Real World star does not regret her experiences on the MTV show, but wishes she had not “made such a fool” of herself on national television. If it had not been for the show, however, Alcaide said, “I probably wouldn’t be here right now.”
Ruthie Alcaide believes strongly in the importance of self-development in college.
“Be your own person,” she said. “Don’t just do something because everyone else is doing it. This is a time for you to find yourself, not to follow someone.”