Dorm drinking up despite fewer police citations

Police charged only eight minors with drinking citations during the first few weeks of school this year, but violations actually rose in the residence halls. Despite Welcome Week activities, Residence hall staff documented 115 alcohol violations from Aug. 24 to Sept. 14, compared with 92 violations in a similar time period the previous year. The reason for the low police figure was lack of party patrol presence to catch underage students around campus, because officers were sent to the Republican National Convention during the last week of August and the first week of September. Welcome Week, though good for networking and getting to know other students, also allowed students time to party before school started, said Ben Schnabel, University security monitor program manager. The violations, which include consuming, possessing or being in the presence of alcohol, rose thanks to a boost in socializing during Welcoming Week and the first week of school, Katie Eichele, a University Housing and Residential Life representative said. Welcome Week, she said, led to more violations this year because students entered the residence halls earlier than usual and were more inclined to gather in large numbers, leading to more students being around alcohol. Violations increased 40 percent, from 3,023 total during the 2006-07 school year, to 4,235 during 2007-08. The annual number of residence hall alcohol violations has also increased every year since 200 5. Eichele said the numbers continue to rise because the University has redefined several of its definitions for alcohol offenses. Within the past few years, just being in the presence of alcohol, whether the student is consuming it or not, has become an offense. Varying Violations Drinking violations and consequences vary within the residence halls. Students not drinking, but in the presence of alcohol, can violate four different violations based on where they are. Some students, like Beth Fosler, a graphic design first-year, said this kind of violation isnâÄôt fair for sober students. She said she doesnâÄôt think she should be penalized for her friendsâÄô drinking choices. âÄúEveryoneâÄôs responsible for their own actions,âÄù she said, but not the actions of others. If Fosler was inside a legal drinkerâÄôs room in Centennial Hall âÄî the only residence hall where students ages 21 and older can possess alcohol âÄî she would be violating the UniversityâÄôs âÄúDry RoomâÄù code. Another code stipulates that students canâÄôt possess empty alcohol containers, a violation that shot up more than 127 percent from last year. University Housing and Residential Life deals with violators on its own terms, without police. Police are only notified when a student drinker either needs to go to detox or canâÄôt be identified. University Correctional Process When either a community adviser or a security monitor catches a student drinking, reports are made and filed with the residence hall director, Schnabel said. The director can then use information from an incident statement written by the staff member who reported the violation. The director then meets with the student to discuss a âÄúresolution,âÄù which changes on a case-by-case basis, Eichele said. The resolutions can include anything from letters of apology, essays about drinking behavior or meetings with staff and community service, Eichele said. Eichele and Schnabel agreed that this is an effective way to educate students about drinkingâÄôs negative consequences without taking legal measures. Eichele said the University Police Department could âÄúbe overstressedâÄù if they responded to every student drinking incident in the residence halls. Eichele said students will âÄúget more educational valueâÄù from University housingâÄôs corrections, and therefore it tries to maintain a certain separation from UMPD. Schnabel agrees with Eichele about housingâÄôs decision to handle underage drinking on its own terms. âÄúYou could write everybody an underage drinking ticket,âÄù Schnabel said, âÄúbut itâÄôs debatable how effective that is on curbing that sort of behavior or not.âÄù