Underage drinking is one of the strongest recurring issues on college campuses around the nation, and it is no different for Temple. Nearly every weekend on campus, there are instances of underage drinking.
According to a police report issued by Temple Police, 38 people were arrested on charges of underage drinking during a party on North Carlisle Street on Sept. 21.
“It’s not a party school when we look at the data,” said Dr. Jeremy Frank, a psychologist and certified addiction counselor with Campus Alcohol and Substance Awareness. “Temple, compared to other schools, is probably under the severe drinking and drugging norms.”
Every two years, CASA assesses how much, where and when students are drinking. These assessments assisted the program in figuring out that binge drinking has decreased on Temple’s campus compared to other schools.
CASA’s findings showed students think 85 percent to 94 percent of students drink once a week, but in reality, only 40 percent to 55 percent of students drink once a week. Temple has remained below the national trends in binge drinking.
Instances of underage drinking on Main Campus still occur. One student attempted to smuggle liquor into 1300 residence hall. Another student drunkenly wandered through Hardwick Hall.
According to the student code of conduct, underage consumption of alcohol can result in students being brought before the University Disciplinary Committee. Students can accept the charges they receive or they can attend a hearing to reconcile their actions.
If students choose to accept their charges, they have to participate in a Drug and Alcohol Offense Program. There is also a fine of $250 that increases each time a student violates the code of conduct. Academic probation and mandatory community service are other disciplinary consequences.
Students who choose to resolve charges in a hearing must go before a panel made up of students, administrators and professors.
“It’s almost like a court hearing, but it’s more informal,” said Richard Greenstein, chair of the committee. “The rules are less strict. There’s no judge or lawyers examining witnesses.”
Charges can be dropped only if students can convince the panel that they are innocent. Otherwise, they will face a second hearing to determine their sanction.
Some students succeed on having charges dropped based on insufficient evidence that proves they did not violate the code of conduct.
“A lot of times, we don’t find students responsible,” Greenstein said.
An example of this would be when an underage drinking party is busted and all of the students are charged, but not all of them receive sanctions because evidence could later show that not all students involved were consuming alcohol.
Greenstein said the disciplinary system does not seek to punish students, but instead inform them how to become functional members of the university’s community.
A key component to education is the required DAO program, which allows students to examine how drugs and alcohol affect their lives.
“We help students decide what, if any, changes they want to make, so we don’t tell them what to do,” Frank said.
Although DAO is required for students, the program acts in the same way as other voluntary counseling programs at the Tuttleman Counseling Center. It is free and confidential. The program is normal for universities with large student bodies.
Frank said the existence of the program is not an indication that Temple has a widespread drinking problem.
The center helps students by using a harm reduction approach. It is a non-abstinence based approach that allows students to choose how they want to decrease their drug and alcohol use. The approach helps students realize they should not drink excessively.
Another component of the harm reduction approach is Medical Amnesty, which was started by Temple’s Alcohol Task Force. Medical Amnesty provides assistance to heavily intoxicated students who are in need of urgent care. Drunken students can call Campus Police without facing disciplinary actions from the university.
The task force is composed of students and faculty who examine drug and alcohol behavior on campus.
“That [Medical Amnesty] has resulted in a lot more students making calls, and we’re fine with that,” said Dean of Students Ainsley Carry.
“It’s better to have them get help, than to die of a drug or alcohol overdose,” said Kevin Gallagher, a junior public health major. “I think it’s pretty smart.”
Carry said when dealing with incidents involving alcohol overdose, student safety is the university’s main priority.
“We want students to think about safety first.”
Brian Dzenis can be reached at email@example.com.