Students question effectiveness of alcohol policy
February 19, 2010
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Guilford has a no-tolerance policy regarding alcohol on campus. If an underage student possessing alcohol is seen by an RA, they will be documented. Furthermore, alcohol is banned in all first-year dorms.A female Mary Hobbes resident, who wished to remain anonymous, said that the policy overly strict and unfair for students of age because these regulations prevent students of age from drinking openly or in first-year dorms.
Another male Milner resident said that he would like more freedom: “I’m in college. I can make my own decisions about drinking.”
However, the College is still required to follow state laws.
“Basically, the policy is the laws of North Carolina apply to Guilford,” said Aaron Fetrow, Vice-President and Dean of Students.
Students get three strikes each year before they incur heavy penalties and possibly suspension for alcohol violations. According to Fetrow, three strikes may appear very strict.
However, Fetrow said that “Odds are, if we catch you drinking, there are far more times we don’t catch you drinking. If we catch you three times, you must be drinking a lot.”
According to Sandy Bowles, Director of Student Judicial Affairs, another reason for the policy is to allow Residence Life to give harsher punishment for numerous low-level offenses.
“If we find someone violating alcohol policies again and again, they are having a major impact on their dorm,” said Bowles.
A first-year who wished to remain anonymous took issue with this system. She said that just because someone gets caught three times does not necessarily mean they have been drinking a lot but that it simply shows they have been drinking three times.
“Just because you’ve never been caught doesn’t mean you’re drinking responsibly,” added the first-year. “You could be drinking depressively or manically.”
In addition, the first-year also mentioned that of all the parties she has gone to, she has never seen an RA there documenting people.
According to Bowles, RAs’ enforcement of the policy can be particularly problematic. Like any other form of enforcement, Bowles said, it is “not uniform, it’s human”. Thus, RAs do not enforce the same rules equally.
“Documenting someone can be an uncomfortable thing, especially if you know the person,” said Bowles. “(As a result,) RAs may be tempted to avoid documenting students or appear overzealous to protect themselves.”
Fetrow said the unequal enforcement from RAs puts pressure on them to “let it slide” since some RAs are more lenient than others. This is why, he said, RAs are supposed to write up all instances of alcohol violation, no matter how minor.
“They’ll do the black and white and we’ll (Residence Life) do the grey,” said Fetrow. “It makes RAs’ jobs easier and they can blame us as the bad guys.”
Bowles said that all the sanctioning for violations comes from Residence Life. According to Bowles, the goal behind the sanctioning system is not to stop all underage drinking, but to uphold state laws and “make students look at others and their effect on their environment”.
As a result, Bowles said, sanctioning can take the form of counseling session or community service. Bowles also stated that sanctioning takes into account whether the student was drinking responsibly.
According to Director of Public Safety Ron Stowe, Public Safety does not actively search out people who drink. Rather, Public Safety primarily gets involved in alcohol-related situations where RA’s or HD’s have phoned for their assistance. Stowe said these calls range from stopping a party that has gone out of hand to investigating someone an RA think might have alcohol.
Stowe said Public Safety does not receive many calls from RA’s regarding alcohol. However, Stowe was reluctant to say that alcohol is not a problem on campus since there were approximately two to three cases of alcohol poisoning last semester requiring hospitalization.
“Alcohol can put yourself at risk medically and put yourself at risk for danger,” said Stowe. “I would not say alcohol is a minor issue.”
While there were only two or three cases of alcohol poisoning last semester, one first-year said lesser cases of alcohol poisoning happen all the time recalling an instance of taking care of two friends bent over and throwing up from alcohol poisoning.
“Right now, there’s just not enough people to enforce it (the alcohol policy) where it’s happening,” said the first-year.
The first-year said that the administration does a poor job of enforcing the freshman dry dorm policy, specifically because first-years easily get alcohol by going to upperclassman dorms, and because RA’s don’t check the rooms for alcohol.
“Do you realize how much alcohol is in ‘dry dorms’?” said the first-year. “People store alcohol in their rooms because they know the RA will never crack down on them.”
Fetrow said that a major issue with the alcohol policy is that there is split in campus between those allowed alcohol and those who are not.
“Back in the 1980s, when the drinking age was 18, my job was a lot easier,” said Fetrow. “Everyone could drink.”
Yet, Fetrow said lowering the drinking age to 18 would just shift the issue to high schools because seniors in high school would be old enough to buy alcohol.
According to Fetrow, the real issue regarding the alcohol policy, is that the college needs to have more dialogue regarding the subject.
“Have we talked about it well enough?” said Fetrow. “No. Could it be better? Yes. It can always be better.”
The first-year said that there are many misconceptions about drinking among freshman.
“People think if you throw up, you’re inexperienced and you need to drink more” said the first-year.