May 052010
 
Authors: Nick Childs

In the 1980s, some of CSU’s best parties happened on campus.

Now, students caught with alcohol in residence halls face consequences based on the severity of the violation and their compliance at the time of the incident. The latest CSU Police Department safety report cites more than 1,200 student alcohol violations on campus in 2007.

Matt Hobson, a Durward Hall resident, is no stranger to receiving citations for drinking in his dorm.

“I have been written up for drinking six times. Five times it was the (Resident Assistants); one time it was the RAs and the cops,” the 20-year-old English major said.

One night he came home overly intoxicated and began to “get mouthy” with the RAs, so they called CSUPD to handle the situation, he said.

This particular incident resulted in a police search where they found marijuana in his room, which led to a citation for drinking along with possession of drugs, he said.

Hobson’s experience and a look at how partying and drinking on campus has changed over the decades are timely as thousands of first-year CSU students prepare to exit the dorms for the summer in only a week.

Unlike the untamed 80s, drinkers on campus can face serious consequences for their actions.

Wendy Rich-Goldschmidt, CSUPD chief of police, said on the first offense her officers can issue what she called a substance abuse ticket, which includes a $150 fine and a hearing with the Office of Conflict Resolution and Student Conduct Services.

Repeat offenders are required to appear in court and often, the police chief said, lose their driver’s license for three months, are fined $100 and must do community service.

In Hobson’s cases, most of his violations did not involve the police and resulted in probation with the university, as well as punishments ranging from apology letters to community service.

Sobriety after number six?

After he was caught for the sixth time February, he enrolled in the Back on TRAC Program, which is the highest level of treatment within the university’s Drugs, Alcohol and You Programs.

“It’s pretty much like a halfway house, but you aren’t confined to one place,” Hobson said. He compared Back on TRAC – where he had to take both urine and blood tests to measure whether he had been drinking – to “rehab.”

Compare Hobson’s reality to a student attending CSU more than two decades ago.

Ceri Anderson, a CSU alumna who graduated in 1988, said she never ran into any trouble drinking in her dorm room.
“We partied in the dorms all the time. … That’s where some of the best parties were,” Anderson said, adding that low-point beer containing 3.2 percent alcohol was legal for individuals 18 and older in 1988.

It wasn’t only lower alcohol beer that was accessible to Anderson and her friends.

“Anytime we wanted alcohol, we could get whatever we wanted,” she said.

Justin Venegas, an RA in Parmelee Hall currently, said that while Anderson and her roommate were able to have a keg in their dorm room without facing repercussions in 1988, for current residents it would be nearly impossible.

The only way to bring a keg into the halls in 2010 without being caught, he said, would be to roll it to a dorm room at 4 a.m. while other students and residence hall staff were sleeping.

Stiff consequences

These days consequences for an on-campus alcohol violations, Venegas said, vary according to the amount of alcohol found, the number of people involved, the level of disruption caused and their cooperation once they’re caught.

The CRSCS website outlines the goals of the DAY Programs and said it aims to aide students who, after being evaluated, could be facing alcohol and drug related issues or those who are interested in learning more about these substance issues.

Parts of the DAY Programs can include periodic Breathalyzer tests or blood tests, Venegas said.

No such rigors were faced by the students in the 80s.

Anderson and her friends were never asked to complete a drug and alcohol course or attend a program similar to those currently offered and said consequences for drinking in the dorms seemed far from possible.

In fact, this 80s party culture was seemingly supported by at least one campus-sponsored event.

College Days, Anderson said, was the highlight of the spring semester and students would spend four days playing mud-football, listening to bands and socializing around kegs of low-alcohol beer on campus.

“(It was) four days of drunkenness,” Anderson said of her experience.

A university-sanctioned event, College Days was similar to the spring concert put on nowadays by the Association for Student Activity Programming. But, in the 80s, kegs were provided as part of the celebration, Dean of Students Anne Hudgens said in an e-mail.

“For a number of years the worst problems associated with College Days were either sunburns or getting frozen,” she said, adding that eventually students from other institutions got wind of the event and made it harder to control.

Then, Hudgens said, Colorado drinking laws were changed, prohibiting the consumption of low-point beer for people under 21 and the alcohol distribution was taken off-campus, resulting in less student participation in on-campus events.
With activities moving off-campus and more people from out of town coming to College Days, the event became more difficult to control. This ultimately led to the end of College Days, Hudgens said.

“In the late 80s there was a riot that occurred off campus in the Baystone (in Campus West) area and fires were set and bottles thrown,” she said, adding that she wishes the event wasn’t remembered because of drinking and rioting because it “mostly wasn’t that.”

Anderson was at this riot. Fellow party-goers, she said, started throwing small objects from ground-level windows but second floor rioters threw larger items, such as toilets.

But it didn’t stop there, she said, and before leaving she saw people flipping a car over and destroying street signs.
Despite the riot Anderson witnessed two other disruptions that occurred in the fall of 2004, CSU has seen a few minor incidents and borderline situations, said CSU Spokesperson Dell Rae Moellenberg.

Quarters and Thumpers

As a result of the 2004 incident, the City of Fort Collins instated a Nuisance Gathering Ordinance, which Assistant Director of Off-Campus Life Melissa Emerson said holds the party host accountable for property damage and law enforcement costs.

According to a CSUPD Safety Report, the university tightened the leash by implementing harsher disciplinary actions for students who engage in this behavior. Any students involved, under Colorado law, could face expulsion from all state-funded institutions.

Since Anderson’s time at CSU not only has the climate around drinking on campus changed but the face of partying has evolved.

Ideally, students should come to CSU with a working knowledge of alcohol laws but, in case they don’t, the police department here is proactive on this issue.

The police chief, Rich-Goldschmidt, said her officers reach out to educate students about the dangers and repercussions of illegal drinking and drug use as part of freshman orientation and other university programs.

“As a police department, we would much rather address a low-level issue, perhaps by giving a ticket, than responding to a student’s misuse late in the game when their health and safety is compromised,” the chief said.

Although formal alcohol education may have been added to the mix, drinking games have been prevalent with college-age parties for decades.

In the 80s Anderson would play games called quarters and thumper. Nowadays, CSU students favor beer pong and flip cup. Instead of mingling to big hair bands and Michael Jackson, today’s students have playlists consisting of the latest pop and hip-hop songs. Some things never change.

“Thursday night was for going to Washington’s (bar),” Anderson said. The local sports pub still holds College Night every Thursday.

Anderson doesn’t regret her time at CSU or the parties in the dorms and elsewhere. It’s a period of experience she said she would, if she could, do again. For her, it was as much about friends as anything.

“I had a great college experience but my emphasis was on having a great social life,” she said.

Contributing writer Nick Childs can be reached news@collegian.com.

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