Drinking policy unchanged, despite spike in alcohol-related ER visits

he policy, relatively lenient compared to that of peer institutions, has resulted in a handful of disciplinary cases, but no arrests.

By Carolanne Fried

There are currently no plans to change University alcohol citation policy despite a spike in alcohol-related ER visits last quarter, administrators said this week. The policy, relatively lenient compared to that of peer institutions, has resulted in a handful of disciplinary cases, but no arrests.

“The incidence of over drinking on our campus is still quite small compared to other schools,” Dean of Students Susan Art said. “It’s not a prevalent part of our culture in the College.”

According to crime statistics provided by the University of Chicago Web site, there were 14 disciplinary referrals for campus violations of liquor law during the years 2006–2008, and no arrests. According to similar information published online by the University of Pennsylvania, the UPenn campus had 73 disciplinary referrals and 54 arrests for on-campus violations of liquor law in the same time period.

Despite last quarter’s spike in emergency room visits due to excessive alcohol consumption, Art said that fewer than 20 students were sent to the ER as a result of alcohol intoxication last fall quarter.

“Certainly there is protocol for students committing violations. But we just don’t have that many incidents,” said Bob Mason, a UCPD spokesman. “Maybe that has to do with the size of the student population or maybe that has to do with the kind of people here at the University of Chicago.”

Mason added that the UCPD arrests underage drinkers. “Students are treated like any other member of the community,” Mason said.

While the University of Penn-sylvania is one of many schools to employ police citations as a method of disciplinary action, the University of Chicago does not have a formal citation process. “We haven’t had our police doing citations for underage drinking or for behavior related to drinking,” Art said.

Northwestern University, which reported 37 arrests and 872 disciplinary referrals for liquor law violations on their Evanston campus from 2006–2008, uses a system of police citations and administrative action to discipline alcohol-related infractions.

“We tend to do municipal citations for possession of open alcohol in public areas, underage possession of alcohol, fraudulent identification; those types of things are sent to a hearing officer and they are adjudicated by the city,” said Daniel McAleer, deputy chief of the Northwestern University police department.

Municipal citations at North-western are accompanied by academic action. “With every citation written against a student, a copy goes to the judicial affairs office at Northwestern University,” McAleer said.

While the University does not have such strict guidelines regulating alcohol-related behavior, the administration will still address dangerous alcohol use among students, Art said. “We are most focused on student health issues. We make sure to get students the help they need.”

The lack of formal disciplinary guidelines related to alcohol abuse is partly attributable to the average U of C student’s focus on academics, Art said. “We are naturally in a better place than at many schools where students aren’t as serious about being students and about their academic careers.

“Could we eventually get to the point where we are doing citations? Yes, we could, but it hasn’t been that much of an issue for us so far,” Art said.