THE CONSEQUENCES OF DRINKING ON CAMPUS
THE NEW JAMS
The disciplinary office formerly known as Judicial Affairs and Mediation Services will now go by a new name that administrators hope is more student-friendly.
JAMS became Student Conduct and Conflict Resolution Services as of May 1, but the new name brings no policy changes, according to Rosie McSweeney, director of the office. McSweeney said the new name better reflects the office’s function.
“The purpose of our office is to uphold community standards, assist in resolving community and interpersonal conflicts, and educate students to be active and respectful citizens who make considered decisions,” she said in an e-mail.
This name change followed a similar change on a national level when the organization that serves student conduct professionals, formerly the Association for Student Judicial Affairs, became the Association for Student Conduct Administration, according to a press release sent out by the Office of Campus Life.
While many universities have recently begun to favor less formal disciplinary approaches, AU has already been doing this through its use of disciplinary conferences, McSweeney said. These conferences are used for policy violations that would not warrant removal from housing, suspension or dismissal from the university.
In accordance with its name, SCCRS continues to offer conflict coaching and mediation training for members of the AU community, according to McSweeney.
HOW YOU CAN GET BUSTED
Despite its new name, SCCRS can and will continue to discipline for alcohol-related offences.
It is not against AU policy to be intoxicated and students cannot get in trouble simply by returning to campus drunk. However, students are often written up for disorderly conduct as a result of alcohol consumption, according to Julie Mills, deputy director of the Student Advocacy Center.
“So, say you are coming back from the dorm and you are yelling, screaming, fighting with a desk receptionist or tearing down posters on your hall: you may be responsible for disorderly conduct,” Mills said in an e-mail.
Possessing, drinking and distributing alcohol in the residence halls is prohibited, even for students who are 21, according to McSweeney. As of last year, it is also prohibited to be in the presence of alcohol or drugs within the residence halls and students can be written up even if they are not partaking themselves, McSweeney said.
While AU’s residence halls are dry, its campus is not. Alcohol is permitted at events with appropriate authorization, according to McSweeney.
The most common way for students to get caught drinking in their dorm room is by being too loud and disruptive, according to Mills. In the majority of the alcohol violations cases the Student Advocacy Center sees, the resident assistants only found the contraband substances in the process of investigating a noise complaint.
“Thus, if you’re a student that drinks on campus, it would be wise to take steps to minimize the noise in your room,” Mills said.
Consequences of getting caught for such violations can include educational interventions (such as classes or reflection papers), parental notification and a changed standing with the university, according to McSweeney.
IF YOU’RE CAUGHT
The Student Advocacy Center offers free, confidential advice that can help students prepare for their SCCRS hearing and understand the procedure and possible outcomes, according to Joel Croft, associate director of the center.
“Students often stress out unnecessarily and we help ease anxiety that comes with going through the Student Conduct office,” Croft said in an e-mail.
The most important things to remember are that the Student Conduct office wants the experience to be education, not punitive, and that it is best to be honest with them, he wrote.
The Student Advocacy Center will also be starting a program on safe partying on and off campus, which will host information sessions in the residence halls and bring in a lawyer to talk about student rights, according to Mills.
SAC can also direct students toward resources that will help them deal with off-campus offenses, said Croft.
DRINKING OFF CAMPUS
It is obvious that students who drink on campus are risking trouble with SCCRS, but many fail to realize this risk extends beyond the boundaries of AU as well.
The Metropolitan Police Department often contacts SCCRS about incidents that occur off campus, meaning that a student can face university penalties on top of his or her police citation, according to Croft.
The Student Conduct Code allows this in order to keep students safe and ensure AU’s reputation as a good neighbor, Public Safety Chief Michael McNair previously told The Eagle.
PARTYING IN THE DISTRICT
As they begin going to off-campus parties, freshmen will undoubtedly hear rumors that it is safer to stay within the D.C. city limits and avoid venturing into nearby Maryland.
According to many upperclassmen, this is because D.C. police officers tend to simply send everyone home when breaking up a party, whereas Maryland police are more likely to issue citations for underage drinking. Until recently, however, the underage drinking laws in both districts have been extremely similar.
D.C. decriminalized underage drinking in 2004, according to Officer Quintin Peterson of the MPD. This means that the consumption of alcohol by someone under 21 is a civil rather than criminal offense and can be punished by fines, community service, or a brief driver’s license suspension. Offenders cannot be arrested or receive a criminal record.
If on public property, however, students can be charged with alcohol-related misdemeanors such as Possession of an Open Container of Alcohol, Disorderly Conduct, DWI (driving while intoxicated) or DUI (driving under the influence), Peterson said in an e-mail. Unlike civil offenses, misdemeanors can go on a criminal record.
PARTYING IN MARYLAND
On Oct. 1, new legislation will go into effect that moves underage drinking in Maryland from a civil to a criminal offense, according to Elena Russo, Maryland Police Department spokesperson.
Any underage person charged with obtaining, consuming or possessing alcohol will have to appear in court, according to House Bill 299. The new will also make it a misdemeanor for a person of age to supply alcohol to someone under 21.
In addition, using a fake ID to purchase alcohol will become a criminal offense, according to the bill.
Under previous Maryland law, underage drinking was a civil offense punishable by a maximum fine of $500 for a first offense.
Russo said she does not think discrepancies have existed or will exist in the future between the way underage drinking is handled in Maryland versus D.C..
“No matter if you’re in D.C. Maryland or Virginia, underage drinking is against the law and law enforcement will handle whatever incidence they’re faced with appropriately,” Russo said.