Preliminary reports indicate that the number of alcohol referrals through most of last semester – from the start of the semester through Nov. 28 – have decreased by exactly half compared to the fall 2011 semester.
One of the possible reasons for the decreasing numbers is not less drinking but a university policy change specifying that underage students present while others are drinking around them, though not drinking themselves, do not receive a write-up.
“Students who are not drinking or using drugs will not be charged in cases where they are present, unless there is evidence to suggest that the students have been in some way complicit in that activity, provided materials or access, for example,” Dean of Students Stephanie Quade said in a December email to the Tribune regarding the effects of the policy change. Quade said this was a change from past years.
“While it is unclear to what extent the significant decrease in numbers this fall compared to last fall may be due to the change in policies or enhanced educational efforts, comparing these first couple years will help us get a better handle on culture change and will continue to help us shape our responses,” she said.
Quade did not provide the specific dollar amount the university raised through the new fine system in the email, despite a request for the information.
Preliminary totals from the beginning of the semester to Nov. 28 show that there were 327 alcohol write-ups in the fall of 2012. There were 654 in the fall of 2011.
Captain Russell Shaw of Marquette’s Department of Public Safety explained that although he and other officers are involved in many of the referrals, not all incidents require DPS assistance.
“I don’t have the stats that are generated in the residence halls, and many of those aren’t reported to DPS and handled internally,” Shaw said. “In many cases (the officers) are asked for help when underage students are in their residence.”
Erin Lazzar, Marquette’s assistant dean of students, said it is difficult to get a final count of alcohol write-ups in the middle of the year because many cases have not been resolved. However, she remained optimistic about the decreasing numbers.
“Our numbers continue to be higher than we would like,” Lazzar said. ”But the change in the policy structure (the various categories of violations) will allow us to compare severity of violations in the next couple of years in a new way.”
Lazzar added that students appear to be using alcohol in less risky ways.
“This is ultimately the goal – the reduction of harm in our campus community as a result of alcohol and drug use,” Lazzar said. “Movement toward lower-category violations indicates that the use is shifting toward lower risk use and, hopefully, less harm.”
Nora DiSanto, a freshman in the College of Communication, said the new fines could have contributed to the decrease in write-ups.
“Students are realizing that they will have to pay a fine,” DiSanto said. “There are likely to be fewer repeat offenders because they don’t have the money to keep paying these fines.”
Although alcohol write-ups decreased, drug referrals have increased significantly since last year. There were 68 drug referrals during the Fall 2012 semester, up from 36 in Fall 2011.
Quade said the fine money for write-ups goes toward campaigns to minimize underage alcohol consumption throughout Marquette’s campus.
“In terms of programming, our programs are presented in a comprehensive prevention model, allowing us to target programs toward individual students (most notably as a follow-up to a conduct case), groups of students and the community as a whole,” Quade said. “The money collected via fines will be utilized for community-wide programming.”
Pat Simonaitis contributed to this report.