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Focus on student safety more so than punishment

The Heights asks the University to ease alcohol sanctions and to better judge individual offenses

Published: Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Updated: Wednesday, January 9, 2013 18:01


The primary goal of a university is to educate its students—and that’s exactly what it should be. A close second to this goal, however, is to provide for and ensure the well-being of students. Without a healthy and safe student body, the task of education becomes impossible. The Heights understands and appreciates the motivations behind the University’s current policies with regard to alcohol—namely, to keep students safe—but there are nevertheless several ways in which the University could improve. 
Many universities have adopted policies that punish students more severely for consumption and possession of hard liquor than for similar possession of beer and wine. Boston College does not. As a result, underage students who choose to drink will often opt for hard liquor in the hopes of decreasing their chances of getting caught and subsequently disciplined. After all, it is far easier to smuggle bottles of clear liquid into a residence hall than it is to carry in a 30-rack of aluminum beer cans. This policy pushes students toward drinking hard liquor and taking shots rapidly rather than drinking slowly. As a result, student safety is jeopardized. Adopting a policy of less strict punishment for possession of beer and wine could encourage more students to seek at these relatively safer forms of alcohol and transitively slow their drinking pace.
During the first weeks of each year on campus, BC provides students with a variety of suggestions for “drinking responsibly.” The “Stay in Your Green Zone” campaign encourages students to drink safely, if they choose to drink at all. Yet whether or not a student is drinking responsibly does not always play a significant role in their subsequent disciplinary action. Sanctions on those who possess moderate amounts of alcohol and drink it responsibly are often very similar to those on students who drink extremely irresponsibly, resulting in poor behavior and hospitalization. Alcohol and Drug Education (ADE) classes, though certainly pertinent and necessary for some extreme cases and repeat offenders, often place students who committed relatively minor offenses in the same class as those who committed far more serious ones. The difference in behavior between an underage student having a beer with a few friends while watching a football game and the same student having 10 shots in two hours, resulting in hospitalization, is massive—yet the difference in sanctions for these two offenses is often not significant. Under the alcohol violations minimum sanctions matrix, the students involved in each of these situations would be placed on disciplinary probation and referred to an ADE class.
The Heights understands how imperative student safety is for the purpose of education, and is in full support of many of the University’s current alcohol procedures, including the Help Seeking Policy. We also understand that underage drinking is illegal and that students who do so should and will be disciplined. Still, the University’s current policies are often counterintuitive to promoting student health and safety. Students are told to seek safer forms of alcohol, yet are punished similarly no matter which form they choose. Students are told to drink responsibly, yet are punished nearly equally whether they do so or not. By holding students responsible for their individual offenses more accurately, the University can encourage student safety by promoting responsible drinking for those who choose to do so.

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