I walked into a classroom in Berglund Hall to meet the six faces of my Peer Review Board. To prepare for my first interaction with the disciplinary system at Pacific I analyzed every word of Pacific’s Alcohol Policy. I can bet I have now read over the Alcohol Policy more times than the average student. Even with my research, sitting with the PRB, their mentor, a housing director and some of my friends, I was still lost as to why we were sitting in front of them. It all started with a report.
All reports done by resident assistants or Campus Public Safety go through a Conduct Review Committee.
This committee was recently made up of the associate dean of students, the student life administrative assistant and until his recent resignation, Robert Dahl, the environmental health and safety manager and director of CPS. They meet weekly to review reports and decide which people from each report will attend PRB. Nearly every report goes through to PRB.
“Unless there’s a clear indicator, we don’t believe an incident occurred. We only have the reports to go off of,” said Dahl.
If a report is written poorly, the committee sends it back for the RA’s to rewrite. Because the RA’s do not have a background in reporting incidents, Dahl said reports occasionally have to be sent back.
Lack of experience became apparent when I read over the incident report regarding my supposed violations during my PRB meeting.
On Oct. 28, 2012 after the Day of the Dead Dance, a few of my friends returned to my 21-year-old friend’s apartment in Vandervelden Court.
One of them had not put away his beer cans from before the dance and as luck has it RA’s Lucy Lawrence and Laurel Zimmer knocked on the door less than five minutes after their return.
According to the report, the RA’s were greeted at the door by two women, who both ran past them upstairs, one had a bottle of vodka in her hand.
The two RA’s chose not to pursue the individual with vodka and entered the room.
In the report it says that it was confirmed that only of-age people had been drinking that night.
That’s my cue.
I entered, unknowing the situation, introduced myself and asked what was wrong. I explained that I was of the legal drinking age and had consumed alcohol earlier in the night, but not in the room.
All of us were told that clearly we had not broken the alcohol policy and that noise would be the only policy in question.
After that, the RA’s left to deal with a different situation downstairs.
The individual with a bottle of vodka was never investigated further and in one week we all surprisingly received an email stating that each of us had violated the noise and alcohol policies.
Through all this, I realized the alcohol policy was not as clear as it could be. I decided to get to the bottom of any possible confusion.
The first bit to know, is that there are two alcohol polices. One is listed under the student code of conduct and the other under the residence hall handbook. They are different.
The student code of conduct policy outlines Oregon state laws regarding alcohol, expected behaviors of those deciding to consume and the rules for serving alcohol at a campus event.
Within this alcohol policy, it states that if individuals are going to drink, then they are not allowed to show behaviors of “excessive noise,” “obvious intoxication,” “irresponsible hosting of functions,” along with other more straight-forward inappropriate behaviors.
Dahl explained each of these.
“If we are called we will respond, but I wouldn’t deal with a noise complaint if patrolling,” he said. Excessive noise is mainly an RA’s responsibility, he said.
In regards to visible intoxication, CPS officers are more strict.
“We don’t allow students to be visibly intoxicated,” said Dahl. “It’s not a social norm that’s accepted here.”
CPS officers make a base judgment of a person in question, and go from there. Dahl said if an officer approaches an individual and that individual cannot hold a conversation, slurs their words or tries to avoid the officer, those are signs CPS needs to take further action.
On the other hand, officers have the discretion to not write up individuals. Dahl explained that after Yule Ball, two of his officers escorted an intoxicated student back to their room and no citations were given.
“It’s likely because the student was polite and compliant with the officers,” said Dahl.
In regards to hosting a function, Dahl said that hosts are responsible for their guests. Behavior causing damage or fights occurring are considered “aggravating circumstances” and would make officers take action faster.
The resident handbook policy outlines the rules and regulations students are required to follow on campus.
The rules changed two years ago to be more lenient towards those living with mixed ages. Currently as it stands, if you are underage and your roommates are not, you are able to be in the presence of alcohol if your roommates want to drink a beer, for example. In any room on campus, 21-year-olds are allowed to drink as long as they follow the state laws and Pacific’s alcohol policy behaviors. But, if any underage students who don’t live in that room are present, everyone is breaking the policy.
“The way the residence hall handbook is written, it’s kind of a common sense thing,” said Dahl.
At the end of my PRB meeting, out of the 16 citations all seven of us were in question of, only one of us got a warning to be more compliant with the RA’s next time.
While each sanction has their part insuring safety at Pacific, over the past few years, the number of incidents has been on the decline. The numbers recorded by CPS and Student Life are the incidents, not number of students involved. In 2011 the total from January to January was 111 in residence halls and 126 total.
The highest number of alcohol violations was 173 in 2009. Dahl was still trying to figure out what was special about that year compared to others.
“Its not uncommon for us to see the same group of students until they figure it out or get the help they need,” said Dahl.
Even with a PRB case like the one I experienced he said, “Over all, our numbers are pretty consistent.”