Underage drinking biggest conduct issue at UNA

by News Editor Anna Beahm

The UNA Police Department reported at least 26 cases of public intoxication, minor in possession of alcohol and driving under the influence of alcohol on campus since August.

“Not only is (underage drinking in the residence halls) common, but it is an epidemic,” said Deputy Chief of Police Mark Parker.

Of the 26 instances of alcohol policy violations reported in the crime log since Jan 17 of those were for a minor in possession of alcohol.

Director of Student Conduct Kim Greenway said UNA’s rate of campus alcohol policy violations is lower than the national average, but these violations still happen on campus.

“Minor in possession of alcohol (based on) my anecdotal observation, is probably our number one conduct issue,” she said.

Parker said he and other campus officers frequently find students violating the campus alcohol policy on campus.

“One officer was doing a walk-through in one of the residence halls for a fire alarm, and a student came running around the corner, bottle in hand,” he said.

Parker said Resident Adivsors often catch students, but it is impossible for them to catch them all. There are usually 50 to 60 students on each floor, making it difficult for RA’s to I.D. every student on their floor.

“UNA’s Student Code of Conduct prohibits the unlawful possession, use or distribution of alcohol and other drugs by students and student organizations,” according to UNA’s alcohol policy. “The regulations also prohibit other alcohol-related misconduct. Students under the age of 21 are prohibited from possession and/or consumption of alcohol.”

While students under the age of 21 cannot drink on campus, those who are can, Parker said. However, he said he thinks students should consider the consequences of drinking before doing so on campus.

If a drunk student leaves his or her room while intoxicated, he or she could be arrested for public intoxication and face university or judicial consequences.

“The officer has authority to make determination to charge the student through juvenile or district court, or the officer could just refer the student conduct board,” he said. “We do a lot of referrals rather than court system.”

Parker said students of age can drink, and even be drunk, in their rooms on campus because those rooms are considered private areas. Students cannot drink in the lobby, outside the dorm or by the rock wall, even if they are of-age, he said.

Freshman Haley Hicks said she thinks drinking in the residence halls could be very dangerous.

“It could be really distracting to other residents, too,” she said. “Especially if there are other students trying to study.”

Students caught violating alcohol policy must meet with an official from Student Conduct for a hearing.

“It’s not our goal to make the students feel bad about themselves during this, we just want to know what happened and if there was a violation of policy,” Greenway said.

If there was a violation of policy, Student Conduct determines what services and education the student needs to help prevent the policy violation a second time.

Students complete an alcohol self-assessment through an online test called “e-Chug,” she said.

“It’s pretty interactive and gives you your stats at the end of it, which, honestly, can be a little surprising to students,” Greenway said.

The university also follows a three strikes rule, meaning if a student violates the policy three times, he or she is expelled from school.

Greenway said these instances are rare and she thinks the current education and counseling system helps eliminate these repeat offenders.

“If a student gets caught once, we don’t usually have very many that are sent back a second time,” she said. “If we do, we have very few that get a third time.”

If a student repeatedly violates the alcohol policy, the student then risks being sent to the court system for punishment or being expelled from school, Parker said.

“Students should consider the possibility of arrest, a trial or court appointment, fines or jail time,” Parker said. “They could also consider the consequences of drinking and getting behind the wheel.”

Mixing alcohol with any illegal substances will magnify the results of drinking, he said. He said he thinks students should be wary of this effect when drinking.

Sophomore Courtney Green said she thinks the student’s motive behind drinking determines the level of risk.

“If you are drinking to get drunk, then it can be very dangerous,” Green said. “If it’s casual drinking, it’s not as bad. It’s all about responsibility.”