Report: Drug, alcohol referrals increase

by Beacon Staff • October 5, 2005

On-campus alcohol and drug violations increased at Emerson College in 2004, according to Emerson's "Annual Report: Campus Security Policies and Crime Statistics" published by the Department of Public Safety last week. Some students are concerned, however, that substance violations and the punishments that accompany them may be unfair and too severe.

According to the report, on-campus liquor law violations rose from 121 in 2003 to 157 last year, and drug law violations increased from 26 to 71.

Director of Public Safety William McCabe attributed the spike in violations to more vigilant regulation of on-campus drug and alcohol use. The Office of Housing and Residence Life (OHRL) has been enforcing this issue more strictly by training resident assistants (RA) and residence directors (RD) more efficiently, McCabe said.

Emerson College Police Lt. Eric Schiazza suggested the increase in violations is due to the fact that alcohol and drugs are becoming more popular in colleges and universities and, therefore, they are less tolerated by administrative officials. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, marijuana use has increased steadily among college students.

A representative from the Office of Housing and Residence Life was not available for comment on this subject.

Little Building Residence Director Dan McAvey said the RA staff has increased its efforts to stop on-campus drug and alcohol use. RA training, McAvey said, has also incorporated a lot more role-playing scenarios to help teach RAs how to deal with situations involving drug and alcohol abuse. McCavey said there are a few reasons behind increase in violations.

"Some increase [is due to more on-campus drug use] but also an increase in the way the issues are addressed," McAvey said. "The attitude among RA staff is not to let anything slip or get by."

Raajik Shah, a senior film major who has worked as an RA at 100 Beacon St. and the Little Building for two years, said training has remained fairly consistent.

Shah, who filed multiple drug and alcohol referrals last weekend, said RAs are obligated to investigate suspicious smells and loud noises coming from dorm rooms.

"Students who are obnoxiously loud are easier to spot," Shah said. "The ones who call attention get attention."

Some students said they felt it was easy to avoid being caught for alcohol violations, even in the wake of the seemingly stricter disciplinary codes.

Dan Norton, a sophomore new media major, said he has not noticed much of a change in the Little Building's policy of enforcement since returning to campus this fall.

"You can get away with almost everything as long as you're not totally stupid," said Norton, who said he was one of only a few students to avoid alcohol violations on his floor last year.

Kristy Fortier, a junior television and video major, who has lived in both 132-4 Beacon St. and the Little Building, was not as lucky. Less than a week before her 21st birthday, Fortier said she received an alcohol violation which resulted in a one-year probation from entering the dormitories, a $75 fine, a required counseling session and a letter of apology to her RA. McAvey said these punishments are standard for offending students.

"I agree that I should have written a letter to my RA, who happened to be a friend of mine, because I woke her up, and I didn't mind the counseling session," said Fortier, who has since moved off campus. "But, I think it's harsh that I can't go into the dorms now-it wasn't like I was a reckless troublemaker all the time."

During the fall semester of last year, Ken Gold, a marketing communications major who was then a freshman, was smoking marijuana in the Little Building when his heartbeat rose to over 200 beats per second, requiring hospitalization. Gold said he passed out twice and his friends had to find an RA who then called for an ambulance.

Gold received a drug violation and was required to pay a $150 fine, take a four-hour long online test about the history of marijuana and the risks associated with the drug, and speak to a conduct coordinator and an alcohol and drug counselor. His parents were notified and he is on disciplinary probation until May of 2006. Gold, too, said he felt the penalty was too harsh.

"I was scared for my life," Gold said. "I felt my heart stop beating. The last thing I need is to be on probation for going through something so traumatic."

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