What makes binge drinking among college students so constant and appealing? For many students, it is the excitement of illegal activity. Once a student passes on into college, a lot more opportunities present themselves, including more chances to screw up. The UAA Dean of Students Office has laid down one policy in particular that is backed by state law and threatens harsh consequences should it be violated.
An email sent to UAA students on March 15th addressed the consequences, restrictions and objective to promote “responsible behavior, educating the university community concerning the use and effects of alcoholic beverages and to help individuals experiencing difficulties with the use of alcohol,” says the UAA Alcohol and Drug Awareness Educator, Alexa Prunella.
“Universities choose these policies for various reasons, including the ordinances in the city in which the university resides. For issues regarding regulated, but legal behaviors, such as alcohol consumption, I do not feel a policy adopted nationwide would do the student populations justice.”
Some universities do have dry campuses and residencies, but most of the state universities across the country mimic the laws of each state accordingly. Whether or not state colleges are more simply more lax than top private universities, or more aware and respectful of their students’ rights is up for debate.
According to recent studies, in the years 2009-2011, universities across the country have had an estimate of 80-90 deaths due to accidents brought on by alcohol. Other causes of death included alcohol and/or drug poisoning, assault, police altercations, car chases, hit and run, misuse of fire arms, skull fractures, fraternity hazing, etc.
In 2009, 18-year old Raphael O’Donnell from UC Irvine, died while walking across a freeway after partying at a night club. A friend told sources, “I’ve drank with Ralph plenty of times and I know he can hold his liquor.”
The University of Oklahoma changed their policy in 2004 to a “dry” policy due to a death of a student induced by alcohol poisoning. And while the Universities of Rhode Island, Missouri Southern, Central Connecticut, and Weber State have declared themselves dry campuses, they continue to uphold the rights given to students of legal age.
Interestingly at UAA, the number of policy violations has decreased from the school year 2009-2010 to 2010-2011. Was it a change in students’ behavior? Or is it thanks to a change in reporting methods?
When asked which system would prove more effective, Michael Votava, Assistant Director of Student Conduct, said that students might be best served under the current UAA policy.
The policy at UAA states that a student of legal age may possess alcohol with an alcohol permit. But if a dry campus policy were enforced, then this right for legal-age students would be retracted.
When asked about the email update UAA sent its students, sophomore Daryn Repasky said “… seems sort of silly in a college setting. Why would anyone need a permit for alcohol in a learning environment? I think it’d just make it easier for the underage students to get their drink on.”
Student Tim Quinn, said “I think it (a dry campus policy) might make matters worse for the campus housing on the whole because more and more students of legal drinking age will opt to live off campus and I think revenue would decrease dramatically.”
Here on campus, the Dean of Student’s office takes on the responsibility for UAA students. Prunella assures us that the Student Services team is working around the clock to improve alcohol education on campus, better necessary consequences, and promote general programming to benefit the students. “We currently host alcohol and/or drug awareness programs most months of the year, and we try hard to cater to student populations.” As an awareness educator, Prunella meets one on one with UAA students in order to help influence them toward low risk decisions. “My goal is to help students make healthy choices that are going to set them up for immediate and long tern success,” Prunella said. But there is only so much the faculty can take responsibility for. In the end, it is the student’s choice.
In our society, some think the drinking age should be lowered, while others think 21 is too soon. Mark Twain said in a letter to San Francisco, “evidence…proves that prohibition only drives drunkenness behind doors and into dark places, and does not cure it or even diminish it.” For UAA students, they can rest assured that the campus and residencies won’t adopt a dry policy, but it appears that the punishments for violations included in the current policy are here to stay.