Last year, in response to 114 alcohol-related violations of the university’s code of conduct on and around campus, Vice President of Student Affairs Theresa Powell called for the creation of a drug and alcohol task force comprising faculty, staff and students.
Last weekend, 12 alcohol-related student arrests were reported in Campus Safety Services’s crime log alone. Three of the incidents involved students attempting to bring alcohol into residence halls.
The Alcohol and Substance Abuse Task Force, which disbanded at the end of last year, submitted recommendations based on their findings that are still under final review by President David Adamany.
The task force assessed and acted on both preventative and punitive measures to curb drinking on campus, Kristen DeJesus, education coordinator for Campus Alcohol and Substance Awareness said. DeJesus was also the education and outreach chair for the task force.
“The alcohol task force was really meant to be a broad reaching task force. Not only for alcohol policy, and education from CASA and the classroom,” DeJesus said. “It was sort of an opportunity … to have a discourse about how we can improve the quality of life for students, and about how we can provide opportunities for them to have fun and be safe.”
New preventative measures, including extended hours at the Independence Blue Cross Recreation Center and food at the Student Center on Friday nights, are available this year. The programs, DeJesus said, are meant to give students a consistent alternative to partying on weekends.
“Students often complain about having nothing to do,” DeJesus said. “The university wanted to meet that challenge and say, ‘Here it is, every Friday and Saturday night, there’s plenty for you to do.’ ”
Captain Robert Lowell, director of investigations for Campus Safety Services said, has a strict policy for dealing with underage drinkers.
“For us it’s really a safety issue. It’s not about harassing students, obviously. It’s strictly about safety,” Lowell said.
Most students who live in the neighborhood adjacent to Main Campus respect the area’s residents, Lowell said. But the reckless actions of other students do affect the university’s relationship with the neighborhood.
“You have a couple students that live in private housing that feel they can do whatever they want,” Lowell said. “It does impact children and people who have to get up for work the next day.”
The administration began to develop residential campus life in the late 90s. Since then, the university has built three dormitories and private firms have built three additional housing units.
A more traditional college campus is bound to create problems with alcohol, DeJesus said.
For the first time this year, Campus Safety Services will grant amnesty to any student who is so intoxicated he or she requires medical attention.
The measure is meant to encourage students to seek medical attention when needed without fear of repercussions, DeJesus said.
CASA and Campus Safety Services are more afraid of the crimes committed because of drinking than the act of drinking itself. The majority of sexual assaults, Lowell said, are usually alcohol-related.
DeJesus said it would be too early in the year to analyze the number of applications for alcohol counseling, but one trend she has seen in the semester’s first weeks is a 100 percent increase in requests for drug and alcohol workshops.
Because student housing is now only guaranteed for freshmen and sophomores, DeJesus said, dormitories lack the guidance and mentoring upperclassmen once provided.
“Students are not having that mentorship older students bring in to the residence halls,” DeJesus said. “And the resident assistants are really trying to provide some mentorship in a large group form.”
Alcohol is now completely prohibited in the dormitories because there are so few 21-year-olds living in them, Lowell said. For several years before the decision was made, he said, students over 21 had abused the privilege by holding parties with students under 21.
“If you’re going to party, do it responsibly, do it in a controlled environment, and don’t impact other people,” Lowell said. “Have people there that aren’t drinking to make sure nothing happens to the people who are attending the party. It’s not like we’re out there looking, ‘Ah, there’s an underage.’ ”
If students can’t drink in the residence halls, Lowell said, there will be fewer problems with students staying in their rooms when they require medical attention.
“Like my boss says, we have gone from watching out for the safety of students to watching over students. We would prefer to watch out for the safety of students, but this has such a big impact on the safety of students,” Lowell said. “We’re trying to balance the two, but we can’t ignore these situations that are right in front of us.”
Christopher Reber can be reached at email@example.com.