College responds to alcohol policy rumors

Recently, rumors circulated on campus claiming that resident assistants had been told to start ignoring alcohol on campus and not to write up as many students as in the past for underage drinking.

Assistant Vice President for Student Life Laura Zirkle responded to these rumors.

Zirkle said the college’s alcohol policy has not changed.

“We have never told RA’s not to write someone up for drinking,” she said.

Student Life offered one possible explanation for these rumors.

Before fall term, Student Conduct met with Police and Safety to clarify the cases in which students should be cited.

Last year, there was confusion between the departments about when a student should be disciplined on campus and when the students should be taken to the police station.

The college does not want to damage the permanent records of its students based on false circumstances.

“There is probably a shift toward the student conduct (penalties) versus the criminal system,” Zirkle said.

Even so, this should not encourage underage students to drink.

The penalty for a first offense for underage drinking includes a $50 fine, 10 hours of community service, social probation and an alcohol education class. Besides these penalties, there are the possibilities of extracurricular restrictions, parental notification, and arrest and prosecution.

The role of RA’s in managing underage drinking is to document situations in which a student breaks college policy or criminal laws.

According to Zirkle, RA’s will not “go looking” for alcohol infractions. Often, the noise from a loud party is what brings the RA to the apartment, although personnel conducting periodic health inspections will report alcohol if they find it sitting out in an apartment.

“If we’re aware of underage drinking, we will address it,” Zirkle said.

Although statistics for alcohol penalization has not been released for the fall term, Zirkle said the current freshman class has been especially well-behaved in this regard.

For more information on the alcohol policy, students can access the Student Handbook on the Mercyhurst Portal.