Police presence sobers students

Simon Husted

Policy change lowers drinking in dorms

Policy change lowers drinking in dorms

A policy implemented January 2009 has cut the number of alcohol violations this Fall by more than half.

The number of reported alcohol violations in residence halls dropped 59 percent from 1,171 during Fall 2008 to 486 in Fall 2009, according to the most recent report from the office of security manager Brian Hellwig.

Hellwig said the drop can be attributed to Kent State Police Department’s intervention in alcohol violations in residence halls since January 2009, when Residence Services changed its enforcement policy on these incidents. The change mandates law enforcement presence whenever an alcohol violation is reported in a residence hall room.

“If there’s alcohol parties, we now call the police,” said Hellwig. “That’s why there’s been such a huge reduction.”

The decision to change the policy was a result of the 20.5 percent spike in alcohol violations between Fall 2007 and Fall 2008.

Kent State police are now sent to every report of alcohol violation and charged a first-degree misdemeanor against any violator who is below 21-years-old.

“It’s a violation of the law,” said Dean Tondiglia, associate director of public safety of the Kent State Police Department. “Part of our responsibility is to uphold the law.”

The violator will also be forced to meet with judicial affairs or a resident hall director, regardless if he or she was charged for underage drinking.

Jill Church, associate director of Residence Services, said although the policy now creates a more coordinated effort against alcohol violations, the larger, overall effort is to prevent “alcohol-related incidents” in residence halls.

Church said it’s not just the fact that students are using alcohol, but they sometimes follow it with vandalism and disruptive behavior.

She added that besides reducing criminal damage and disorderly conduct, crimes that sometimes involve alcohol consumption are also goals behind last year’s policy change.

Yet the difference in alcohol-related incidents between 2009 and 2008 don’t show the same dramatic drop as alcohol violations.

The following are the number of reported criminal damage, criminal mischief and disorderly conduct incidents reported in 2008 and 2009:

• One hundred and seven criminal damage reports in 2008 compared to 99 reports in 2009.

• Eighty-two criminal mischief reports in 2008 compared to 62 reports in 2009.

• Forty-six disorderly conduct reports in 2008 compared to 43 reports in 2009.

Nevertheless, one RA, Amanda Cox, who has worked at Lake Hall for two years, said she has seen a significant drop in disruptive behavior between this year and last year.

She said she’s impressed by the trouble her residents have avoided.

“My wing of girls are phenomenal this year,” the junior integrated language arts major said.

Prior to the policy change in January 2009, Tondiglia said residence hall security notified his department about alcohol violations, but not always asked for their presence unless the situations included disorderly conduct or criminal damage. He said now with the policy change, KSUPD’s involvement is more consistent.

Since the enforcement procedure was changed, Church said Residence Services has received no complaints from students. Instead, when the notice first went out, Church said, she heard from four or five different students praising the new policy and hoping it would change the disruptive behavior of their next-door neighbor or roommate.

“I didn’t expect to hear anything,” Church said. “So to hear stuff positive about it was kind of interesting.”

Though Hellwig and Tondiglia correlate the decreasing number of alcohol violations with the policy change, Church said Residence Services wants to hold off until more semester reports are published and a concrete pattern can be found.

Contact safety reporter Simon Husted at [email protected].