By Charles Logan
Elm Staff Writer

Alcohol on a college campus is not an uncommon sight, and there are always underaged students getting in trouble for participating.

In the four weeks since classes have started, there have been many alcohol related incidents involving Public Safety and medical amnesty. One of these cases involved medical amnesty being called to the same dorm room twice in one night. Medical Amnesty is the College policy stating that students seeking medical help for themselves or a peer in alcohol-related incidents may be immune from certain disciplinary consequences.

“I think it is fair to say the number of alcohol incidents have been on the rise, but it is also early in the year to know,” Director of Public Safety Jerry Roderick said.

WC President Mitchell Reiss had a similar sentiment.

“Unscientifically, anecdotally, it appears that there’s been a spike in serious alcohol issues. That may or may not be true, that’s my perception. If it is true, the question is why.”

Roderick and Public Safety are constantly working to monitor the campus and keep students safe.

“Whenever someone gets in trouble, it is not uncommon for students to think that there is a crackdown,” Roderick said.

Roderick emphasized that Public Safety is not cracking down; there is just a rise in cases.
Part of the problem might be that some students think that the college is free from the law. “Maryland law is very clear in stating if you’re under the age of 21, you cannot be in possession of or consume alcohol,” Roderick said. “Washington College policy includes this law as well as defining the college policies on alcohol. A college campus is not a sanctuary from the law.”

The WC Student Handbook spells out the College’s policy related to alcohol: “The College prohibits the unlawful manufacture, distribution, dispensing, possession and use of controlled substances …As used in this policy, the words ‘substance’ and ‘controlled substance’ include alcoholic beverages,” the policy states.

College policy also includes stipulations for students 1 who can possess alcohol legally.

“Alcohol may be consumed only within assigned rooms or suites. Open containers of alcohol are prohibited in common spaces, such as hallways and lounges, and in public areas, such as lobbies or outdoors,” it states, and alcohol may not be sold in any fashion on campus. This means that “cash bars, events to which admission tickets are sold or for which fees are charged, either by the event or for a period of time (e.g., entertainment charge or annual dues), entitling the purchase[r] access to an open bar, and parties at which alcoholic beverages are served and for which contributions or donations to offset the costs of the party are sought” are prohibited. Kegs or “mechanisms or devices that permit purchase, storage, and distribution of alcohol in bulk quantities” are also prohibited.
Hall or other college-sponsored activities using college funds may not include alcohol. Students are responsible for the behavior of any guests they bring to campus, and students who possess alcohol are expected to use it responsibly and legally.

While Roderick will not say that this year is worse than others, he questions the actions of students this year.

“I am surprised to see just how many students choose to openly consume or tote alcohol while on campus or in town,” he said. “So the question I ask is, why do so many students choose to violate the law and college policy so openly, and seem surprised when confronted by a Public Safety officer?”

From an administrator’s perspective, it is “too soon to say whether alcohol related incidents have increased,” Dean of Students Mela Dutka said. “As a small college, it’s not unusual to see variation in number when comparing one semester to another semester and one year to a preceding year.”

As the year continues, it will become more clear on whether or not this year contained more incidents.

“When we look at several years of data together, it helps us identify trends, which helps shape strategies to either support continuation of good trends or address those going in an undesirable direction, in this case alcohol consumption,” Dutka said. “Anecdotal information can be helpful, certainly, but not indicative of the true state of affairs involving patterns up or down over a period of time.”

Some students have also noted a number of alcohol related incidents.

“I witnessed one night as Public Safety went into Caroline House at least twice, and then I saw them that same night go into Minta Martin as well,” freshmen Steven Ford said.

Until we get hard numbers from this semester, it will not be clear whether or not WC is going through a “drunken” phase. “It is not uncommon for students to think that there is a crackdown on campus,” Roderick said. “I ask all of the students to use good judgement and avoid making poor decisions that result in Public Safety taking intervention measures or enforcement actions. We have many other responsibilities to tend to on any given night to protect the entire campus.”

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