We made it through the first month of school. But four students who came to UCSB with goals and dreams, just like every single one of us, are now dead. I have a sinking feeling in my stomach just thinking about it. Four students didn’t even see the first month of school through. Why? And each time we hear about another death, we feel shocked and can only say, “Oh, that’s so sad.” What else is there to do?

Why not start by thinking about why we are still here. Why did it happen to them, and not to any one of us? What actions and responsibilities have we taken for ourselves and for others that allow us to be here, right in this moment? Think hard about it, because this is your life.

Think about your goals and dreams. I’ll bet that nowhere in those plans did you ask for an interruption of a tragic accident. No. You came here for an education to secure rich choices and opportunities for your future. You came here with activities you are passionate about, like sports or music or environmental conservation or politics that give you a sense of worth and freedom. And in every aspect of all your reasons to be here, you want to have fun. You want to enjoy what you’re doing. Why wouldn’t you?

So I am here to ask you to do yourself a favor. Have fun. Get involved. Dive into your weekly activities and weekend adventures. But why not think ahead about the outcomes? UCSB is renowned for knowing how to party. Right now, that reputation is in jeopardy. Partying is not about drinking to the point of oblivion or getting sick. Being sick is not fun, and partying is supposed to be all about having a great time. It’s also about spending time with people you enjoy and feel comfortable with. There’s safety in a responsible crowd. One great party should be able to be followed by many after. So make plans for your ride home before you go out. The dangers are not just drunk drivers, but anyone who has had anything to drink. That’s why the general advice is not to drink and drive. It doesn’t matter if you don’t feel drunk, you are still putting everyone around you in danger if you decide to drink. And that is not okay.

Everyone’s been talking about Halloween coming up. But we’ve been having some major problems, even without all the crowds on that wild weekend. So start planning right now, even before you buy your costumes, how you’re going to continue to ensure that you will be here tomorrow. Yes, it’s scary to think about, but four people have already had to face that hard fact. You can have a great time and still be safe. Make sure you plan ahead with your friends when you want to go out. Someone should be chosen as the designated driver for your group. If that’s not an option, use the local taxi service. Don’t forget that there are people you can call who would much rather be woken up to come get you than read about you as a used-to-be in the paper the next day. Make sure you keep track of how much alcohol you are putting into your body and how fast. Even if everyone around you is still drinking, you need to know your limits and stick to them. If you don’t, you’re the one who has to deal with the unpleasantness later. This is not a fun topic to think about, but it’s been forced upon all of us because we have not been keeping promises to ourselves and to others to ensure that we all reach our goals and dreams of tomorrow. So please, as a favor to yourself and to those you care dearly about, be responsible about your actions. There are many great things waiting for you in your future. Will you be there?

Lauren Perry is a first-year creative studies biology major.