By Sara Burchfield
None of the students at Bridgewater College would deny that it is a dry campus. It’s voiced by tour guides to visiting high school students, incoming freshman hear the standard from their orientation speakers, and upper classmen are told from their area coordinators. The problems many students struggle with during their college journey are the rules about drinking on campus. If broken, the consequences are written in the eagle, said John Manson.
Mason, who is the Director of Student Outreach Services, made it clear that there are reasons behind the drinking rules on campus. First of all, he said, if anyone under 21 years old is caught drinking off campus, the sanctions are worse. Manson said that there are rules at Bridgewater for a few specific reasons. The research in higher education supports that alcohol can have negative impacts on students’ academic study environment and can increase incidents of vandalism, violence and sexual assaults on college and university campuses (Eagle, 2012, p. 64).
The first line of the Eagle states that (2012), “In Virginia, people under 21 years of age may not possess, buy or use alcohol beverages of any kind’’ (p. 64). Manson explained that it begins with how we respond to the law. Manson also explained that although the sanctions are known to be tough, they have worked hard for the 2012-2013 academic year to prove otherwise. From the Eagle, it says that the College promotes high standards of student conduct and is dedicated to fostering student growth through educational sanctioning (Eagle, 2012, 63).
When asked about his experience with on-campus drinking, Manson explained further that not all students who are caught are going to be in deep trouble, as there are varying degrees of sanctions and points depending on the circumstances. According to Manson, the judicial system is working hard to make sure that students receive the right consequence for what they were caught doing. According to the Eagle, if a student is caught participating in a party or group drinking on campus, they would have the option to take an educational course at BC. These sorts of outcomes, Manson hopes, will help students not feel solely reprimanded, rather further educated about the effects of alcohol. Another faculty member said that it is quite a different scene to live in the midst of dorm life.
Catie Straube is the area coordinator for a few dorms on campus. She said many times how much she loves working with the kids in her dorm, calling them ‘my kids’. With such adoration for her job, Straube explained that there have been times when she had to remind students of their duties on campus. According to Straube, it is researched and proven that alcohol and education don’t mix. She said the staff at Bridgewater tries to enforce the idea that if caught, the sanctions are for educational purposes, not punishment. According to the Eagle, if a student is caught participating in a violation of the college alcohol policy including using, in the presence of, or distributing alcohol on campus, the first offense is a written warning, judicial educator, or CHOICES Educational Program with 2 points recorded on the transcript. The second offense is a disciplinary probation and BASICS, four points noted on the transcript. Following is a third offense of suspension recommendation with ten points. If more heavily involved with drinking games, driving drunk, or giving alcohol to minors, the first offense comes with 4-8 points with suspension possible, with disciplinary probation, and BASICS. The second offense would be suspension recommendation with ten points. Straube said that she understands that everyone makes mistakes, and that is why there should be educational reinforcements. She also explained that she makes it clear in the dorms that you should trust your resident advisors. If they find you with alcohol, or near it, tell them the truth about what happened. A few residents of the dorms spoke out about their opinions about not only the rules, but their own feelings towards drinking on campus.
For some, there isn’t any true temptation to drink. One junior art student explained that she has never ventured to a large party as she knows the depth of the consequence. She said that in past years a fellow student was sexually assaulted at such a party. While there are students who are very similar to this committed art student, there are those who make other choices.
Some admit that although they are studious, dedicated college students, they still think drinking on campus isn’t a bad thing. One student shrugged her shoulders and said she feels safer drinking on campus. However, she explained, she and her friends would be reprimanded harshly if caught. She said there should be a mercy rule, instead of being reprimanded for acting in safer ways while drinking. This student explained how there are those who drink cautiously, and should therefore not be as strictly disciplined. A fellow student voiced that although she agrees, there are certain precautions that many of their peers have to take.
A young education student said that if drinking were allowed on campus, it would keep others safe who go out. She said that there are students who seek other places to party, find themselves wasted, and dangerously attempt to make it back to campus. The future teacher also explained that being part of the education program comes along with stricter rules. If caught once, she said, she will get kicked out of her teaching program.
It is no secret that many college students enjoy going out on a Friday or Saturday night. Some say it’s a time to relax and let loose, others state honestly that they wish to get very intoxicated. Whether or not they go out, it is not allowed at Bridgewater. Manson explained that it is not a religious affiliation or a way to be harsh towards students; rather, the judicial system will make a decision case by case. Straube said that her best advice is to trust that very system. Both said that the rules aren’t out to get you, but rather to help inform the campus on why education and alcohol simply don’t mix. In the end, some students’ voices can be heard complaining how the rules are strict and unfair to those who play it safe. “Be safe and don’t be afraid to ask for help,” Straube said.Tweet