November 14, 2003

Student Assembly Votes Against Campus Alcohol Record Policies

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The Student Assembly voiced a firm opposition last night to the Campus Judicial Committee’s plans for a more stringent alcohol policy, voting unanimously in favor of a resolution against the proposed changes.

Under the current version of the campus code, judicial authorities are not permitted to include violations for underage possession of alcohol on a student’s disciplinary record. The proposed revision would effectively do away with that provision, allowing judicial administrators full discretion in deciding whether or not to make such violations a permanent part of a student’s record.

Members of the S.A. voiced their concerns in a question and debate session with Judicial Administrator Mary Beth Grant and several University officials. Opposition centered around worries that the new policy would hamper students’ chances of admission to graduate schools for relatively minor alcohol-related infractions, a concern which Grant downplayed.

“[Admissions officials] care about serious violations and things that show a pattern of misconduct,” Grant said. “Do directors of admissions realize that underage drinking happens on campus? Yes.”

S.A. representative Toby Lewis ’04, who cosponsored the resolution, disagreed.

“If a misspelling on an essay can have a negative effect [on admissions], I’m pretty sure that an alcohol violation will have an effect,” he said.

Representatives also raised questions regarding the ability of the new rule to curb underage drinking and the possibility of its implementation reducing opportunities for social interaction on campus.

“Why would you want to further deteriorate the social lives of thousands of students by implementing yet another policy for a school not known for partying?” asked representative David Skolnik ’05. “Personally, I think it’s ridiculous.”

Officials defended the changes by arguing that noting violations on disciplinary records would not be used in a punitive manner but only as motivation to help a handful of students with severe and recurrent drinking problems.

“It’s actually fairly rare to have somebody come in on a second violation,” Grant said, “and it’s only in those instances that we’re thinking about [using the disciplinary record].”

The matter of revising the campus code’s underage alcohol possession policy was debated during last month’s meeting of the University Assembly, where a vote on the issue yielded an even split among members. The S.A. was asked to provide its opinion on the debate for consideration in an upcoming meeting of the U.A.

The proposed changes to the code would also include a prohibition on the judicial administrator’s ability to assign community service as punishment for alcohol violations, a change which generated far less controversy than the other alteration.

“This isn’t the appropriate educational response, and it hasn’t been for 12 years,” Grant said. “Certainly the primary focus should be the alcohol education class.”

Grant noted that the time required for the class in question had already been dramatically reduced, from a 13-hour commitment down to two.

University officials said that, judging by current statistics, only 12 to 15 students per year commit infractions seriously or frequently enough to be subject to the proposed disciplinary action. They also said that alcohol-related incidents which were reported under the current Medical Amnesty program would not be subject to inclusion on a student’s disciplinary record.

During the course of yesterday’s meeting, Stephen Blake ’05, executive vice president of the S.A., drafted an amendment to the resolution which called on the Campus Judicial Committee and the S.A. to work together to clarify the code as a whole rather than implement the new changes. The amendment received only one vote of support and was struck down in favor of the unanimously backed resolution against the code’s revision.

Archived article by Jeff Sickelco