Point System Could End Ambiguity, Unfairness
Students Must Be Ready To Compromise In Order To Bring About Much-Needed Changes In Alcohol Policy
Published: Sunday, March 17, 2013
Updated: Sunday, March 17, 2013 23:03
A UGBC Senate committee led by Chris Marchese, UGBC senator and A&S ’15, has created a proposal advising the administration to convert the existing alcohol sanctions matrix to a point system. The proposal was based on feedback from more than 500 students gathered through an online survey, in which 93 percent of students surveyed stated that the current matrix needs revision. The proposal is currently in petition form, and could become a referendum on the upcoming elections ballot this spring.
While the initiative shown by both the students who participated in the survey and those who composed it is encouraging, the proposal should be considered with a heavy dose of realism—it is very unlikely that the administration will approve the point system as it stands. With that being said, there are many excellent suggestions outlined in the proposal that the administration should consider seriously.
The best suggestion among the proposed changes is the differentiation between hard liquor (greater than 20 percent alcohol), and beer and wine (less than 20 percent alcohol). In the past, this page has advocated for this distinction to be made, and the administration must consider it when moving forward. As indicated by the quotes used in the Senate committee’s proposal, many students have expressed the belief that equal sanctions for hard liquor and beer and wine encourage students to choose hard liquor, which poses a greater health risk. This is logical—if students want to avoid getting caught, they drink smaller amounts of stronger alcohol more quickly, because it is easier to hide, disguise, and dispose. In the proposal, more than 50 percent of students surveyed indicated that they would be likely to choose beer or wine over hard alcohol if the sanctions were different for each, indicating that a change in policy could result in a change in behavior. To promote students’ safety, the alcohol sanctions matrix should outline less severe punishments for students who drink responsibly than for those who do not.
The point system, in theory, is an excellent idea for a sanctions system, for several reasons. First, it is unambiguous—even in the initial proposal distributed by the senate committee, students can understand after a brief reading the punishments that equate to particular violations. This is an improvement upon the current sanctions matrix, which leaves the large majority of sanctioning up to individual cases, putting forth only the “minimum sanctions.”
If a point system were put in place, students would be able to keep track of their disciplinary standing more easily, making them more likely to identify problems in their own behavior and make responsible choices to ensure that their disciplinary standing doesn’t worsen. In addition, the administration would be better equipped to keep track of and address problems that may be developing across the student body as a whole.
Despite its many positive aspects, the current point system, as mentioned above, will likely not pass administrative review. The idea that those who have accumulated points should be able to gain point forgiveness by taking voluntary alcohol education classes could turn the disciplinary system into a game, with students violating the policy frequently but signing up for many classes to keep their point total low. Even if the proposal were to include a limit on the number of classes allowed, it is a frequent complaint that these alcohol education classes are not effective at changing behavior, and include students who committed offenses that range widely in severity. While classes should be mandatory at a certain point for repeat offenders, other options, such as meeting with a psychologist from University Counseling Services, should also be considered as a way of serving a sanction.
In addition, the idea that points are automatically forgiven after 60 days without a violation is a good idea, but will likely not be passed as it stands. This would allow students to forgive more than 20 points during their time at BC from freshman to senior year. The Senate committee and the student body should be ready to compromise—it is likely that the number of days will need to be increased to 90 or 120 for the proposal to be considered more seriously by the administration.
The automatic forgiveness of six points or fewer before graduation is also a slippery slope. Students in college, though still maturing, are adults who should be held responsible for their actions. Major acts of vandalism, large public disturbances, aggressive actions toward police and emergency personnel, and other serious violations should stay on students’ records, regardless of how many days they have gone without a violation. Yes, this is college, and yes, many students apply for professional schools after graduation, but this is not reason enough to clear the records of so many students automatically. If these future aspirations are so important, students should consider the consequences of their actions before committing significant violations. Point forgiveness before graduation should be granted only after a meeting with and subsequent approval of the Dean of Students Office (DSO). Not only will this make the point system more attractive to the administration, it will also ensure that students who need to be held responsible aren’t let off the hook too easily. Approval from DSO should be applied liberally, however, in the case of minor infractions.
The most disconcerting part of the proposal is the inclusion of sexual harassment and sexual assault in the point system. The proposal seems to imply not only that sexual harassment and sexual assault are equal offenses (each 10 points), it also seems to imply that these acts are only 10 times worse than underage possession of beer or wine (one point). These violations are far more serious than alcohol violations, and including them in a points system that deals mostly with drugs and alcohol trivializes their grave nature. These violations should be dealt with on another, more serious level by police and administrators.