Alcohol programming committee explores student involvement as possible solution to alcohol reports
Alcohol-related, on-campus arrests decreased from two to one between 2015 and 2016, according to the 2017 Annual Campus Security and Fire Safety report.
The number of alcohol-related disciplinary referrals on campus, however, increased by two, rising from 47 to 49.
Forty-one alcohol-related disciplinary referrals took place off campus between Jan. 1, 2016 and Dec. 31, 2016. That’s four more than in 2015, according to the same report.
In an effort to combat a rise in incidents, the Alcohol Programming Committee is seeking students to join and offer input.
“That is something we want to do,” said Jacob Knight, chair of the committee and residence life director. “We, at our last meeting, had discussed trying to pull in some students to help out with us.”
Established in 2016, the committee currently includes Knight, Security Officer Nelson Preston, Counselor John Shafer and Health Center Coordinator Cathe DeCleene.
Ellis Hall, vice president of student affairs and dean of students, created the committee to shift the responsibility of alcohol programming from the counseling center to a group of people from across the Student Affairs division.
“In the Student Affairs division, this past year—well every year—we wanted to make sure we do alcohol programming because it’s a continual issue for our students,” Hall said. “It’s an issue that we want to make sure our students learn about and have some educational perspective on.”
Although the committee will sometimes have its own initiatives, Knight said it doesn’t necessarily create alcohol programming. Its main purpose is to oversee other alcohol programs and support them.
The goal of the committee is not to “talk down to students,” Shafer said, but instead is aimed at encouraging moderation or supporting the choice to abstain entirely.
“Talking about the ‘evils of drinking alcohol’ is not effective,” Shafer said. “It is a challenge to get students to change any behaviors, but we need to continue to encourage them to make smarter choices.”
Another reason for the committee is to ensure students are aware of the campus policies.
“Often alcohol leads to, or is connected with, a lot of violations of other college policy,” Hall said.
Outlining these campus expectations is one of the reasons Preston joined the committee. Although he said he is uncertain why some numbers have decreased while others have increased, he’s pleased to see the number of arrests go down.
“I’d like to say it’s because of alcohol programming and education and students are making smarter choices,” he said.
As for the disciplinary referrals, Preston said several factors could contribute to this statistic. For example, a particularly strong residence life staff that reports on behalf of residence halls could attribute to the increase in disciplinary referrals.
“I haven’t seen a big increase in alcohol incidents. I haven’t had a whole lot this year,” Resident Assistant and junior Priyam Patel said. “Whenever we have alcohol incidents, we’re told we need to be looking out for the safety of our residents.”
When dealing with alcohol incidents, resident assistants have to fill out a form saying a student broke an alcohol policy and provide information about everyone involved. It’s then sent to Knight, Residence Hall Coordinators Mike Rivera and Russ Norris, and Assistant Residence Hall Coordinators and seniors Kyle Sauley and Alexis Beed to be reviewed before submitting it to the judicial board.
Violations of the alcohol and drug policy could result in probationary status, fines, required educational programming, required alcohol assessment, removal from housing or suspension from the college.
Counselor Sara Kinder said the college continues to educate students through a variety of alcohol programs, such as AlcoholEdu and Safe Haven. Both are programs freshmen are required to complete before starting their first year.
Kinder said the college paid EverFi, an online digital citizenship company through which AlcoholEdu and Safe Haven are provided, about $1,500 this year for the AlcoholEdu program alone. This was after the college received a two-year grant from the Youth Alcohol Awareness and Education Foundation.
Guest speakers are also hired throughout the year to speak with students. Hall said there are too many factors to reach an estimate on how much the college spends to invite speakers to address alcohol awareness.
“We cover their transportation and a meal, others have fees,” he said. “Some are covered by grants. It varies greatly what costs might be to have a speaker come and talk on any topic, much less alcohol.”
Aside from the numbers, DeCleene hopes alcohol programs have a great impact on students but understands that it’s simply the nature of some students to come to school already drinking or wanting to experiment.
“Nobody’s saying we don’t want people to drink. There is some experimentation,” she said. “We would just would like people to be safe and smart.”