While it may seem like the cultural norm for young people to experiment with drinking, recent events in Colorado have shown the dark side of the bottle.
The deaths of CSU student Samantha Spady and University of Colorado-Boulder student Lynn Gordon Bailey Jr. have raised questions about universities’ alcohol policies.
Both colleges have policies requiring students living on and off campus to comply with all federal, state and local laws. Students living in residence halls may not possess or consume alcohol or other illegal drugs.
Anne Hudgens, executive director of campus life at CSU, said the university has multiple alcohol and drug policies.
“The primary expectation for students off campus is that they are law-abiding citizens,” Hudgens said. “Local ordinances are the ones they particularly need to be aware of, especially noise ordinances.”
Noise violation tickets are faxed by the city of Fort Collins to CSU so appropriate disciplinary action can be taken. Hudgens said the university might find out if students are in violation of other laws, such as being a minor in possession, distributing alcohol to minors or possessing illegal substances, when a noise violation is received.
“In the Student Rights and Responsibilities statement, the university may take the initiative in incidents happening off campus if it is serious and affects the institution’s relationship with the community,” Hudgens said. “We have partnered with the city to deal with the most contentious issues such as downtown, relating to the bars, noise and rioting.”
While CSU does not receive all the Fort Collins Police Services reports, Hudgens said when issues come to light, the university responds accordingly. Incidents handled by the CSU Police Department are far more likely to be reported to the university.
The first offense for a ticket such as a noise violation with no extenuating circumstances is usually a warning, and the only punishment is attendance at a workshop on how to plan safe parties, Hudgens said. However, a student involved in a disruption such as a fight will be required to appear at a disciplinary hearing where the student’s overall record will be reviewed and appropriate action will be taken.
Disciplinary action for an alcohol situation could range from a warning to suspension or even expulsion, depending on the severity and on past offenses. Students may also be required to attend one of the four Drugs, Alcohol and You classes offered through the Center for Drug and Alcohol Education at CSU.
CU-Boulder has a similar alcohol policy, but with more defined consequences for the offenses.
“Our policies basically copy state laws. In addition, alcohol may not be possessed or consumed on campus except under specific conditions such as an approved event utilizing a one-day liquor license or in the privacy of one’s residence if the person is 21 years of age or older,” wrote Bob Maust, principle investigator for alcohol abuse on the Boulder campus, in an e-mail interview.
While these policies apply to on-campus behaviors only, Maust said the campus judicial affairs jurisdiction has extended to include tickets issued by Boulder Police Department for offenses such as minor in possession and nuisance parties.
The consequences of not adhering to these policies are dependent on the circumstances. However, CU-Boulder enforces a stringent three-strike policy that was implemented in fall 2000.
“Assuming there are no extenuating circumstances, such as resisting arrest or assault, a simple MIP will result in one semester of probation, assignment to an alcohol/drug program at a cost of $100 and parental notification,” Maust wrote. “A second violation while a student is still on probation will result in suspension for at least one semester. A second violation for a person that is no longer on probation will result in referral to a county ‘second offender program’ that costs about $300 and requires 24 hours of participation. A third violation earned over the period of enrollment results in suspension.”
Twenty-nine students were suspended from CU-Boulder for at least one semester during the 2002-2003 academic year because of this policy. However, a new “two-strike” standard was adopted in August.
“This standard was adopted for two reasons. First, CU implemented a mandatory Web-based alcohol education for all entering freshmen and given this new level of awareness, it was believed we could hold these people to a higher standard of behavior,” Maust wrote. “Second, we were not satisfied that we had sufficiently changed the drinking culture at CU-Boulder.”
Cassie Holsan, a senior accounting major at CSU, said she does not think the universities have a right to punish students for what they do off campus.
“I don’t really think what you’re doing on your own time, if it doesn’t affect grades or work, should have an affect on school policy,” Holsan said. “On campus (the administration) should have some control but what I do at my own house is none of their business.”
While neither university has made any immediate policy changes because of the incidents, the CSU task force evaluating alcohol abuse may recommend changes, Hudgens said.
Maust said CU-Boulder may want to look at tailgating policies and what alcohol advertising the school uses.
Matt Fischer, a senior restaurant and resort management major at CSU, said no matter what changes are made, students are still going to be partying and drinking.
“They should teach more not to prevent (alcohol abuse) but how to cope with it,” Fischer said. “Kids are going to drink either way, they should teach them how to do it responsibly. I had a professor say, ‘If you’re going to drink and you can’t speak anymore, you’re done.’ It was a joke, yet serious at the same time.”
There’s a whole lot of drinking going on…
Colorado State University:
According to Educational Benchmarking Institute Survey of Freshmen (2003/2004), 37 percent of incoming freshmen don’t drink at all.
20 percent of students at CSU are doing 80 percent of the drinking.
University of Colorado-Boulder:
1997-2002: 91 percent of students had at least one drink in the past 30 days.
Of this population, about 32 percent drank but did not binge, 55 to 65 percent binged and about 33 percent would be classified as frequent binge drinkers.
National data suggest CU-Boulder is in the upper 25 percent of universities in terms of “binge drinking”
About 6 percent of all college students meet the criteria of alcoholics.