Alcohol violations nearly doubled last year

Deidre Whipple/TRUMPET

Student liquor referrals nearly doubled from the 2010 to 2011 school year, according to the Annual Campus Security and Fire Safety Report.

Liquor referrals consist of students that were not arrested for drinking violations, but were given a student conduct follow-up. This could result in a fine, counseling, taking the Alcohol 101 class or more severe punishment. There were 129 liquor referrals in 2010 and 250 in 2011.

Wes Brooks, Director of Residential Life, said the number of drinking incidents has not gone up, but rather a larger number of people involved in these incidents caused the jump in the number of liquor referrals.

“We had two very large-scale gatherings that needed to be dealt with for noise complaints. Then we came across alcohol violations that significantly spiked the number of referrals,” Brooks said.

These incidents involved nearly a hundred students.

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Brooks said the policies for alcohol violations are the same. Underage drinking and drinking in the presence of minors are not allowed. He said he doesn’t think alcohol consumption on campus has increased.

“I would assume that drinking on campus is very similar to what it’s been, that it’s very consistent. By no means do I think that there’s an excessive amount of alcohol consumption on our campus.”

This year, there have been around 40 liquor referrals. Brooks said this number is much lower than the number of referrals at this time last year and puts the college on track for a much lower total.

Brooks said the number of referrals has increased over the last four years, but he thinks this is related to higher expectations of the Residential Life Department and their training of resident assistants.

“Resident assistants are being more diligent in their responsibilities and their expectations our office has of them as far as policy infractions,” Brooks said. “The rule breaker number is the same; the college enforcing those policies has gone up.”

Assistant Director of Residential Life, Leah Eilers, said resident assistants are trained how to respond to drinking violations in the fall. More experienced RAs act out scenarios in dorm rooms and the new RAs have to confront the different situations.

Brooks said the best way to combat drinking issues is to deal with the incidents right away, speak with students and understand their level of involvement in the incident.

“We don’t try to take a punitive approach, especially on initial interventions. If a student has had more repetitive incidents then there is sometimes more of a punitive approach,” Brooks said. “Ultimately what we’re trying to do is change the behavior of a student that is not aligned with what the student code of conduct sets out.”

Eilers said teaming up with AWARE and counseling services to raise awareness of responsible drinking could help lower violations. Brooks said no matter what the number of liquor referrals is, that’s a number he wants to see decrease.

“It’s our responsibility as policy enforcers on campus to make sure that campus is safe, inviting, welcoming and just a great atmosphere for students who choose not to participate in those activities,” Brooks said. “That’s our ultimate goal and if that means we have to have incident reports and deal with policy infractions, then we’ll do that.”

Brooks said Residential Life sees highs and lows in drinking violations at specific times during the year.  He said fall term usually sees a larger number as freshmen are exploring the party scene. After that, there are highs around Homecoming, finals, spring break and May Term.

“The more that we can educate students and put them in a position to be successful, then there will be less policy infractions and more responsible consumption when those students are of legal age to do so,” Brooks said.

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