University area underage drinking busts grow in 1998

Jesse Weisbeck

Alcohol consumption violation 340A.503 might be a law with little meaning to some, but it is becoming familiar on campus as University Police cite more and more students each year for underage drinking.
Although police are becoming more active with ticketing underage drinkers, some believe educating and instilling respect in students is crucial to stopping the behavior as well.
During a 24-hour period in January, University Police ticketed a record 63 underage drinkers for minor consumption on campus.
The increased ticketing, which continues to rise, is a result of outcry from concerned residence hall employees and increased enforcement by University Police, said University Police Chief Joy Rikala.
But some say the increased ticketing alone isn’t slowing underage drinking.
“We were hoping that the citations in January would slow them down, but it doesn’t seem to have done anything,” said Ralph Rickgarn, executive assistant for Housing and Residential Life. He added that much of the behavior he sees with underage drinkers is pre-existing from high school or sooner.
But a definite trend is evident, Rickgarn said. In his 27 years at the University, Rickgarn said underage students consume more alcohol today than in the past.
“It seems to be very up,” he said. “It’s a new level of use and a new level of abuse.”
“Most students have started drinking before they even come on campus,” said Amelious Whyte, assistant to the vice president for Student Development and Athletics. But, Whyte added that many University students don’t drink at all.
In 1997, University Police reported serving between 550 to 600 citations for underage drinking, as compared to 221 citations in 1994.
In addition, 82 of last year’s alcohol violations were served in January of that year, while 162 citations already have been served in January of this year, almost doubling the amount of tickets handed out in a one-month period.
“It’s showing students they have adult responsibilities and consequences,” Rikala said.
Frontier Hall and Territorial Hall, which house only freshmen, are the two campus hotspots for underage drinking, Rikala said.
“I think it’s sending the message that you can get caught,” Whyte said. “That’s going to make them think twice.”
But enforcement alone doesn’t stop underage drinking, said Laurie Jeroslow, director of Territorial Hall.
Jeroslow believes educating students about alcohol is the larger goal when they are served minor consumption tickets.
She said that in her experience, slapping residents on the wrist with an $83 ticket doesn’t do much.
“You have to intervene,” she said. “My goal has been to educate the students.”
Educating new students about alcohol, Jeroslow said, is accomplished through speaking with students who violate residence hall rules, and establishing a good rapport between residence hall employees and residents.
Jeroslow said, in general, residents and staff members maintain a good relationship in spite of the occasional ticketing for underage drinking.
Whyte, who works extensively on University alcohol issues, also said tickets alone won’t solve the problem.
“I think with the consequences there needs to be education,” he said.