Editorial: Three strike rule a better approach

A few years ago, Rider was the place to party. Students could blast music, play drinking games, take their alcohol outside and, overall, just have a good time. But then we lost Gary DeVercelly Jr. — a freshman who passed away in March 2007 after reportedly consuming close to an entire bottle of vodka in a single night — and everything changed when it came to the school’s alcohol policy.

Since last year, the number of alcohol disciplinary actions has gone up 20 percent, while arrests have gone down. While it’s good that we have been able to help one problem, we still need to focus on that increasing number of violations.

The University administration believes the alcohol policy is working. However, many students believe the current alcohol policy is too harsh. But judging from the number of arrests and violations — nearly 500 last year with a resident population of approximately 2,500 on the Lawrenceville campus — it seems that it’s not strong enough.

As sensitive as the alcohol issue is on this campus, the alcohol policy should be stricter — “three strikes and you’re out.”

Under the current policy, students have at least four chances to stop drinking on campus, and all of the consequences are very similar. The policy says that after the first violation, extra consequences are added, such as loss of driving privileges, suspension from any social events and, after the fourth violation, possible removal from the University. Students then have more than one chance to correct their behavior before they are expelled.

But instead of involving four of the main consequences of an alcohol violation as penalties for every offense, the University should consider splitting them up for maximum effect. For example, punishment for the first violation could be a fine, parental notification and completion of an alcohol education program. The second violation could lead to a substantially higher fine and loss of social privileges on campus. And the third, as intense as this may sound, could be loss of housing or expulsion. Of course, it would depend on the situation. The penalties should be harsher if students are caught drinking underage or are acting belligerently towards an RA or Public Safety officer.

One of the consequences of a third alcohol violation under the current policy is a loss of driving privileges on campus. This would make sense if everyone on campus drove a car. But what about the students who don’t have a car on campus? For them, an alcohol violation would be almost exactly the same whether it was their first, second or third offense. The only thing different is the amount of the fine. It wouldn’t deter those students any more than before.

Students should be smart enough not to drink alcohol on campus if they are not yet 21. While clearer definitions and constant reminders of the punishments are needed, students should know that if they are caught drinking, they will be punished in some way. Right now, they just aren’t afraid enough of the rules to change their behavior.

This weekly editorial expresses the majority opinion of The Rider News. This week’s editorial was written by the Opinion Editor, Angelique Lee.

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