College revises Alcohol and Sexual Misconduct policies

Posted by Kojo Amarteyfio

Following a turbulent academic year that saw more than 20 students admitted to a hospital following substance abuse, the college has revised its Alcohol and Other Drugs (AOD) policy to feature significant changes effective immediately.

The new AOD policy features a new "point" system, where student violations of the policy may result in their being assigned points that correspond to the nature of the offense, also taking into account the record of the offender. The accumulation of 10 points at any time during a student's tenure will result in a recommendation for suspension being made to the dean of Student Affairs.

Another major change has been the insertion of an "association" rule. Underage students who are not drinking, but are found in the presence of other underage students who are, will be assigned points after the first such incident.

The categories of offenses have also been expanded from four to five and the fines attached to violation of the AOD policy have been roundly increased.

The review process has been a lengthy one, commencing last fall and continuing through this summer. According to the administration, the new policy is in part a response to trends on campus concerning substance abuse last academic year.

There were also multiple instances of physical and verbal abuse of college staff, and last academic year the college spent about $40,000 on college property repairs following incidents of vandalism. An insufficient AOD policy was identified as a weak link in the campaign to regulate campus behavior.

Don Hastings, head of Residential Life said, "We expect that students recognize and are concerned with the new policy and that there will be a reduction in incidents."

Among students, the policy has already stirred controversy. "I think it's a bit harsh. I do not think that people caught in the vicinity should be punished if they're not drinking, " said Kyle Lavecchia '14. Other students have remarked on how easily a student could possibly accrue 10 points within four years at Skidmore.

Hastings argues that the new policy is not as harsh as students perceive it; "The students who didn't have to worry with the old AOD policy will not have to worry now."

The new policy is open for discussion and potential amendment. "There are certainly controversial points," Hastings said. A change that would see students' point count reduced after a period of continued good standing is under consideration. A formal student feedback session is planned for October and the policy will undergo a review process in January.

At the same time, the Sexual Misconduct policy has undergone major changes since last year, following a recommendation by national experts on sexual misconduct policy. The primary change is a reduction in the standard of evidence required as proof of misconduct, from clear and convincing (about 70 percent consensus) to preponderate (about 50 percent consensus).

Following a "Dear Colleague" letter sent by the United States Department of Education Office for Civil Rights to colleges all over the country, Skidmore has appointed a Title IX investigator for sexual misconduct claims.

Also, there is now a mechanism for claimants to appeal decisions of the Sexual Assault Response Task Force on reported incidents of sexual misconduct. Further support systems have been provided for sexual abuse victims; particularly through an increase in the numbers of staff trained to deal with sexual misconduct issues.

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