Faculty and SGA to discuss revisions to AOD policy with students: Changes will address the 'in the presence of' clause, the point system and the clarity of language

Posted by Adrian Appleman & Matthew Camuso

A faculty committee and the Student Government Association will hold an open review for students and faculty to discuss revisions to the Alcohol and Other Drugs policy, granting those with concerns or ideas the opportunity to suggest changes to the current system.

At the end of last semester, the faculty committee, comprised of members from Health Promotions, Residential Life and the Student Assessment and Intervention Group, which formed to address the AOD policy revisions, scheduled a review for January.

However, after speaking with SGA, the committee decided to meet with students first before implementing any new revisions. The Student Assessment and Intervention Group is made up of members from Campus Safety, Student Academic Services, Academic Advising and Health Services.

The AOD Policy, as stated in the student handbook, is devised "to provide a safe environment that promotes academic success as well as physical and psychological health on both the individual and community levels." Its recent revisions were met with criticism from the student body.

Rochelle Calhoun, dean of student affairs, said prevalent common concerns of students regarding the present AOD policy are the possibility of deducting accumulated points, the vagueness of some of the language in the policy, such as that included in the Medical Amnesty Policy with its lack of specific rules and violations and the "in the presence of alcohol" clause, which holds students responsible for being in the presence of underaged drinkers, even if they themselves are not drinking.

"In the presence of was not meant to drive sobriety out of it. It's about trying to make a safer community. It was an unintended consequence," said Jono Zeidan '12, president of the SGA. "We want to hear the input, go back to the drawing board and make the changes that reflect the needs and concerns of the student body."

In order to help discuss these changes, Campus Safety has provided the statistics of alcohol and drug related incidents to observe and monitor AOD violations from the past academic year.

"Students expressed some concerns about certain things, like thinking drinking would go underground, that drinking would just be pushed off-campus or that students would call less for help," Calhoun said. "So we looked at the data we had, particularly from last semester to see if it supported those concerns. And it doesn't. That doesn't mean that it's not happening, but what we are able to know doesn't support what in fact is happening and I think it's important for students to know that."

However, Calhoun did emphasize that this data is only from a single academic year, and that trends may change in subsequent years. However, thus far it seems that many issues have decreased following the initiation of the new AOD policy.

"The number of issues downtown went down dramatically from last fall to this fall. So we're not seeing the concern that these issues are being pushed off-campus and that students are more likely to get in trouble," Calhoun said.

However, one change that hasn't occurred, according to Calhoun, is the number of transport requests from areas off-campus.

"What that tells me is that students are still reaching out for help for themselves and for others they perceive to be in trouble. So I actually don't mind that that number isn't dramatically different, because if it had been, I would have been concerned that students had stopped calling for help."

Calhoun said while she hopes the changes will be implemented this semester, at the moment it is uncertain whether that will actually be the case, or if the revisions will not go into place until the next academic year.

"It's probably going to be a little bit more dependent on the conversations we are having with students to know if it makes sense for us to try and implement the changes this semester or if it just makes more sense to begin the new year," Calhoun said.

Administrators from Residential Life and Student Affairs divisions will go on a retreat next week to discuss revisions. All students who wish to express their concerns and ideas and should attend the upcoming open forum, which Calhoun said she hopes will take place in approximately two weeks during an SGA Senate meeting. 

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