Bottled Up

Although punishments differ, underage students
face consequences if caught drinking on campus
Thursday, November 11, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 3:41 p.m. CDT, Monday, July 21, 2008

This fall, for the first time, public safety officers at St. Louis University began arresting students for underage drinking.

In the past, the campus engaged in collaborative efforts with city police to sweep the campus for violators, ran educational trainings with Missouri’s liquor control board for vendors and started up an alcohol task force in 2001. Bu tat worst, students were punished with a referral to a school judicial board.

“There was no major enlightenment or big problem to address,” SLU campus police Capt. Rick Younger said. “We just saw some things with noise, property damage, and decided we need to start addressing it in a firmer manner.”

Nationally, about one in four college students drink to get drunk, said Kim Dude, director of MU’s Wellness Resource Center, where campus alcohol awareness programs are based.

However, campuses throughout the nation do not uniformly punish their behavior.

2003 crime report released:

College campuses recently released 2003 crime statistics in compliance with the federal Jeanne Clery Disclosure of Campus Security Policy and Campus Crimes Statistics Act, which mandates the yearly release of the reports. Compared to other crimes such as burglary and arson, the alcohol violation category reveals the most incidents at several schools.

Some campuses recorded greater numbers of arrests, while others reported more referrals. When an arrest and a referral are made, only the arrest is counted under the Clery Act. However, if only a referral is made, it is counted.

MU arrest totals for liquor law violations outnumber arrests at other schools. When referrals and arrests are added together to project a total number of all alcohol violations on each campus, KU and Southwest Missouri State take the lead.

An arrest means the student received a misdemeanor citation that goes on a criminal record for violating state or local liquor laws. A referral is imposed by the school for violating the same laws and often carries the consequence of an educational course on alcohol.

MU arrests increase

In 2003, MU reported the closest ratio of arrests to referrals, with 220 arrests and 429 referrals. In contrast, St. Louis University reported zero arrests and more than 300 referrals for liquor law violations in 2003.

At MU, the number of arrests doubled from 2002 to 2003 — from 107 to 220. The MU Police Department said the increase is not a result of increased patrols. If referrals and arrests are combined to form a total picture of alcohol violations caught on campus, the 2003 totals are comparable to years in the past. The annual numbers have shown that as arrests increased, referrals decreased proportionately.

MU Police Department Capt. Brian Weimer said officers have been receiving more education about how to spot alcohol violations as part of their yearly training than in the past.

A big portion of the judicial referrals at MU result from violations in residence halls.

“Police are not routinely called,” said Frankie Minor, director of Residential Life.

Instead, students engage in an informal disposition with a student conduct officer determining the consequences. “By and large, most students are cooperative,” Minor said.

The police department at the University of Kansas in Lawrence also said it is not lenient on student alcohol violations and will make arrests when officers have reason during regular patrols. However, KU’s arrest numbers for liquor law violations add up to 22, whereas their referrals top 800.

Targeted enforcement

One difference between the MU Police Department and KU is that MU officers sometimes engage in alcohol sweeps, where enforcement is targeted to find liquor law violations. The 12 campuses in the Missouri Partners in Prevention Coalition all engage in alcohol sweeps, which are paid for by state grants. The group is composed of officials from state-funded colleges throughout Missouri who meet monthly to discuss campus drinking.

Earle Doman, dean of students at Southwest Missouri State University in Springfield, heads the school’s program. Doman said the campus’ alcohol education workshop has been one of the most effective tools in preventing alcohol abuse. Although he said arrests and referrals are equally deterrent, Doman reiterated that the goal is not to punish students but to educate them in how to make healthy choices.

“I think we’ve had to recognize that in the real world, people do break the law and suffer the consequences. So, there needs to be an educational approach,” Doman said. He added that students often learn to try to avoid punishment when the focus is on law enforcement measures, but the educational component helps them learn healthy choices. Southwest Missouri State had six times as many referrals as arrests in 2003 — 794 referrals compared to 194 arrests.

Dude, of MU’s Wellness Center, is project director of Partners in Prevention. She said campus alcohol prevention efforts should include educational programs, awareness campaigns and law enforcement.

“It’s important that students have consequences to their negative behaviors because there certainly will be consequences after they graduate,” Dude said.

Helen Stubbs, spokeswoman for the federal Center for College Health and Safety in Massachusetts, said the number imbalance may reflect reluctance by campus police to arrest large numbers of students. Local courts may resist an influx of minor in possession citations clogging the system.

Schools did not always report judicial referrals. For example, MU began reporting the referrals in 2000. Founders of the Clery Act said schools used judicial referrals to mask true crime rates, according to the Act’s Web site,

SLU campus police Capt. Younger expects the school’s statistics to change with the police move to make arrests.

“You’ll see a different look to our report next year,” he said.

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