Each school year births new traditions. For most of us during Orientation Week, we saw, heard about, or perhaps were, one of the freshmen who got a little too rowdy the first night out. But those students from the Class of 2016 will experience a new tradition: they will return from the hospital with hundreds of dollars in fines waiting for them.
The major change to Marquette’s alcohol policy this year is the addition of these student fines. However, fines are not just limited to underage students. The university can fine students of legal drinking age if it is deemed appropriate. The fines, which vary in amount based on the severity and frequency of offense, will go toward funding alcohol and drug prevention programs and activities for students.
We understand that the new alcohol policy is meant to promote student safety by deterring binge drinking. This, realistically, isn’t such a bad thing. Milwaukee and Wisconsin in general are known for a drinking culture, and we commend the administration for wanting to distance the university from that reputation. We are part of an educational institution and, to some level, our rules and behavior need to reflect that.
Furthermore, we live on a very urban campus where crime is not neccessarily a stranger. Intoxicated students are easy targets for robberies and other violence. If the stricter rules make students think a little harder before drinking and stay a little more sober, these sorts of incidents might decrease, which would, of course, be a good thing. But let’s look at the other potential consequences of the new policy.
If students were to find themselves in a situation in which they had to choose between calling DPS for medical attention or getting fined, they could very well risk their lives or the lives of others in order to save the hundreds of dollars they would be assessed. It’s no secret that most college kids don’t have that kind of money to throw around each time they make a mistake.
This new policy is very fear-oriented, and we are worried that it could cause more harm than good in many situations, especially as freshmen try to adjust to the college setting.
What does this new policy mean for DPS officers? Are they going to be too preoccupied trying to enforce these new rules to monitor the rest of campus safety to the quality level we know and love them for?
Another problem with the new policy is its ambiguity. The money from student fines will supposedly be used for non-alcoholic activities for students, but what exactly are those? Late Night? Guest speakers? We want to know precisely where the money is going, how much it is and who is responsible for allocating and overseeing it.
But the details of where the fines go aren’t the only questions that need clarification. The alcohol policy explicitly says that each situation is specific and open to interpretation, but that’s the problem. Yes, each situation is unique, but when the guidelines and procedures appear purposefully left open-ended to be arbitrarily enforced, there is clearly an issue.
When is it deemed appropriate to fine a student of legal drinking age? Is any sort of safety guaranteed for a student seeking medical attention on behalf of another? What are the penalties for students who are deemed to be complicit in rule-breaking incidents?
We need more stability in what offense deserves which punishment. We don’t want any more of this “unwritten rule” nonsense. We want transparent rules with consistent consequences.