Alcohol Report: Rise in on-campus liquor law violations ‘misleading’

By Emily Landgraf

Alcohol violations are on the rise at Rider for the second year in a row, while alcoholrelated arrests are down, according to the 2009 Security and Fire Safety Report.

According to the 2009 Security and Fire Safety Report, alcohol-related violations are up, but arrests are down. Administrators feel that the alcohol policy is now more consistently enforced.

The number of arrests for liquor law violations dropped from 100 in 2007 to 49 in 2009. But the number of disciplinary actions increased from 335 to 420, a 20 percent increase.

According to administrators, however, combining the number of arrests and disciplinary actions paints a different picture.

In 2007, there were a combined total of 435 on-campus liquor law violations on Rider’s Lawrenceville campus. In 2009, there were 469 on-campus liquor law violations, an increase of 34 violations over the two-year period, according to the report.

“The reason we combine the numbers when making a comparison from year to year is that the violations are the same, specifically, violations of municipal liquor laws,” Associate Vice President for Planning Debbie Stasolla said. “It’s just counted differently for Clery (mandatory reporting act) purposes to denote whether local law enforcement made the arrest or the institution referred the violation for disciplinary action.”

According to Stasolla, it is important to note that those arrested for liquor law violations are also referred to the Office of Community Standards for violations of the alcohol policy.

Rider does not see the rise in numbers as a problem.

“[The numbers] are a reflection of the work we’ve been doing in our consistent enforcement of the alcohol policy,” Stasolla said.

Dean of Students Anthony Campbell agrees.

“I think there’s more consistent enforcement of the policies,” he said. “We have better trained RA’s. We have better trained Public Safety officers.”

Campbell believes the policies are being enforced correctly, but says that the alcohol policy is more than just the rules. It’s about education and keeping students safe.

Despite the increase in the municipal liquor law violations on campus, the administration seems to feel the alcohol policy is working.

“We are comfortable with our alcohol policy,” Stasolla said. “We’re continuing to work to create a safer environment for our students, and the alcohol policy is a component of that, an important component.”

In spring of 2007, following the tragic death of Gary DeVercelly Jr., Rider rewrote the university’s alcohol policy, creating a tier system to punish students for certain types of offenses.

The Clery Act and Report

The Jeanne Clery act was named in honor of Jeanne Clery, a Lehigh University student, who was raped and murdered while asleep in her residence hall room on April 5, 1986.

According to the website securityoncampus.org, “The Jeanne Clery Disclosure of Campus Security Policy and Campus Crime Statistics Act  is the landmark federal law, originally known as the Campus Security Act, that requires colleges and universities across the United States to disclose information about crime on and around their campuses.”

Vickie Weaver, director of Rider’s Department of Public Safety, believes students should know that the Clery definition of arrests does not necessarily mean getting hauled off to the police station in handcuffs.

“When you get a summons or a ticket or a citation from the police, that’s an arrest,” she said.

Students with disciplinary actions are those who are written up by Public Safety or their resident advisors and then referred to the Office of Community Standards.

Campbell and Stasolla also pointed out that new freshmen pose a challenge for the administration every year.

Campbell said that eventually, freshmen get the picture. “Students learn and understand that we are serious about [the alcohol policy],” said Campbell.

Administrators said that the addition of West Village and the amount of freshmen on-campus last year contributed to a rise in violations.

So how do students feel?

A student speaking on condition of anonymity said that during her freshman year at Rider, she and her three roommates were unfairly written up.

“One night we all got alcohol violations, along with one of my roommate’s boyfriends, for bottles and cans in the trash room down the hallway,” she said. “We had taken out our trash earlier that night and the only reason why the [Resident Advisors] knew this was because we lived directly across the hall from their office.”

The student said that when she and one of her roommates took out their garbage, they saw two RA’s go into the trash room. Later that night, the RA’s knocked on the door, and wrote up everyone in the [room], though there was nothing in the room to prove they had been drinking.

“They wrote in the incident report that they clearly saw me walk out with a plastic bag of Keystone cans and it listed every bottle and can in the trash room recycling can that night,” she said. “There really were beer cans in the bag I threw away but they were tied up and the bag was still in the opaque trash can so there was no possible way for them to see it without going through it in the trash room. So we were written up for trash that they did not see but assumed was ours.”

Another source wishing to remain anonymous called the policy “insane.”

“We’re a college campus, clearly there’s drinking going on,” she said. “The thing that bothers me the most about it is that displaying shot glasses — decorative shot glasses — is automatically a tier two violation. This is because, apparently, if you have a shot glass that means you’ve used it and that’s considered binge drinking.”

How we compare

When compared to an area school fairly similar in size, like Rowan University, Rider has more on-campus liquor law violations despite the fact that Rider houses roughly 2,500 students and Rowan houses 2,950 students.

Rowan had a combined total of 324 on-campus liquor law violations in 2007, which dropped to 318 in 2009.

This means that in 2007, Rider had 111 more on-campus liquor law violations than Rowan did and in 2009, Rider had 151 more, despite the fact that all of Rowan’s residence halls are dry.

Current Monmouth University numbers were unavailable for comparsion.

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