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New SMC alcohol policy

Liz Harter | Monday, September 1, 2008

As Saint Mary’s students came back to campus last week they were met with a new alcohol policy outlined in the College’s Code of Student Conduct that was distributed by Slandah Dieujuste, the director of residence life and judicial affairs. The policy, introduced on Aug. 21, has been mentioned in many of the mandatory section meetings resident assistants (RAs) held with their residents throughout the week.

While the alcohol policy did not change drastically, according to Dieujuste, it was rewritten by a small group of administrators and students to “provide students with as much information about the community values and the conduct process.”

The policy now places a limit on the amount of alcohol students who are over 21 can have in their rooms at one time. It also outlines Medical Amnesty and “Good Samaritan” policies and allows students who are 21 to possess alcohol in their rooms even if their roommate is not 21, as long as the underage roommate is not consuming the alcohol. The person who is 21 must be present if there is an open container of alcohol in the room, like a beer can or bottle, that cannot be recapped, and students under 21 who do not reside in the room may not be present if anyone is drinking.

Before this year it was illegal to have alcohol in a room in which a student who is under 21 resided.

“The values listed in the Code of Student Conduct are values that we have always held as a community but never spelled out in writing,” Dieujuste said. “The difference [between our old alcohol policy and the new one] is that it is now being spelled out more explicitly.”

She said the biggest changes to the policy are the Medical Amnesty and “Good Samaritan” policies which were put in writing because the College’s primary concern is safety and the committee who put the new policy together wanted to “make it clear to students that we would never want them to jeopardize their safety for fear of getting in trouble,” she said.

The Medical Amnesty policy allows students to seek assistance during an alcohol or other drug-related emergency without facing disciplinary action for possessing or using the alcohol or drugs as long as the student contacts the police, College security or a member of the residence life staff for help.

According to the Code of Student Conduct, the student receiving medical assistance would then be required to meet with a member of the counseling staff for an assessment within five College business days and as long as the student complies with all directives from the counseling staff she will not face disciplinary actions for the alcohol or drug violations.

The Good Samaritan policy is similar, though it has to do with providing safety for students who may seek medical help for an intoxicated student.

It states that “as members of [the Saint Mary’s] community, students have a responsibility to each other,” and states that a student will not face disciplinary action for possession or use of alcohol or drugs if she remains with the individual until medical assistance arrives. To qualify for this policy the student must contact the police, College security or a member of the residence life staff and schedule an appointment with Dieujuste.

Many students think these new policies are helpful and give a more safety conscious atmosphere to campus.

Senior Jessica Sobczyk said she thinks these policies will provide students with more of an incentive to help their friends if there is a potential medical emergency. She said she thinks students weren’t going to their RAs or other authority figures during possible medical emergencies because they were afraid of getting in trouble.

“They seem like good policies that could help keep students safe,” she said.

While Sobczyk thinks the Medical Amnesty and Good Samaritan polices are good, she has a problem with the second half of the new alcohol policy – the limit on the amount of alcohol a student can possess in their room.

The College has always had a “subjective limit” on the amount of alcohol a student can personally possess though it was never a defined amount,” Dieujuste said. This year though, the subjective limit is now specific. Students may possess either one 12-pack of beer, one half-gallon of wine or one pint of hard liquor. Hard liquor was never outlawed on Saint Mary’s campus even though it was banned from Notre Dame in 2002.

This limit was placed on students because the committee that rewrote the policy believed it made sense to be more explicit about what amount of alcohol is considered personal use, Dieujuste said.

“We understand that a student’s room is her home and we trust our of-aged students,” she said. “[But] it made sense to allow of-aged students to consume alcohol in their room while reminding them of their responsibilities.”

Sobczyk, who is 21, thinks this limit is too strict and makes it seem like the administration doesn’t trust students over 21.

“While I understand their desire to limit the chance that a resident’s room becomes a full service bar, I believe they took the regulations too far,” she said. “By the time she’s 21 a student should be mature and responsible enough to be able to decide how much alcohol she would like to keep in her room. I’m sick of feeling like I’m doing something illegal when, if I lived in my own house, I’d be perfectly within my rights.”

Senior and 22-year-old Jessi Porter agreed with Sobczyk’s argument saying she has taken a lot of issue with the new policy.

“I think that if you are over 21 you should be able to decide on your own what is a reasonable amount of alcohol to consume and have readily on hand in their room,” she said.

Dieujuste said while there is a limit on the amount of alcohol a student can keep in their room the RAs and staff will not be going into student rooms to check if students have above that amount nor will they be inspecting students’ bags as they enter a building.

“I see this more coming into play when we have to confront a room where a roommate is over 21 and there is a concerning amount of alcohol present in the room,” she said. “While, as a 21-year-old, she may have alcohol, that amount must be within limit.”